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Rich Ives

Librarian Found Sleeping in a Tree

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We were being observed by large animals,
at least as large as we were, wearing
hand-tooled belts and tie-dyed T-shirts.
Chopin was trailing through the buffalo-grass
and not even he was just like himself.
One more moment was needling its way,
a word crossed-out then left sitting on
the page like a retired prison guard.
We couldn't have been happier
but we should have been.

That was after I was younger,
when I knew boys like to shoot things.
They like to explode what refuses to be
theirs. They don't know how to get things
to come to them in the hands of others,
tamed and willing, the way girls do,
one boy after another exploding for them.

That was before you were asking for it,
and I gave it beneath the old bottle tree.
After that I missed a birthday party,
thinking How boring, thinking Someone's
getting older and I'm supposed to be happy,

but I wanted to be with myself, so I didn't go.
That party was for me. Had a great time.

There's something living in the library, they say,
and at night, when the books are locked up,
and I can't go home because I've learned
home's not there anymore, that's when
I know it's me in there unshelving the scent
of wild yams and a thick soft tickle of insects.
If the grunt is soft enough, it ignites.

I'm collecting sweet stories to tickle my stomach.
This tells me I'm a good provider and leaves condensation
behind, filled with everything I haven't understood.
I have a couple of legs that do what I ask,
but it was my thinking that grew milky and
slipped under the couch like a warbling stream.
So I sing it and if you sing it, it's a song.

The deliberate music's in the library now
and if there's still a guard, he's busy drinking in
the comforting absence of superior patrons
who would sign their names to petitions
for all things good and casually volunteer
to help with the annual sale of unwanted
readers and persistent dark thoughts.

Deep as alfalfa roots I sink, frail and legendary,
breaking the earth's damp musky cellar
as far as 130.5 feet down to be exact.
O blistered moon, O streetlight winking,
I might say if I knew how to survive inside,
rising from book root to stem to limb to sleep.
A chattering chandelier of chickadees lights
the innocent branch. A sleeping bird is not
a creature but a book of unread flight.

A Mountain Man Accepts His Tenderness

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I took the whiny little flower-eater
I needed his place

for something new
filled with the glacier's children

I could have forced back
to permit travel but the evidence

the grand design
that I had come here to petition

has no reason to accept
or to strangle

and eat him but there's always
leftovers all over the admirable

I admit I felt defeated
between the sheets

if that little crow doesn't
why does my darkness

in this way I was no longer
his damned gentle touch

and I hated myself for
my clothing even

at the summit
an annoying gentle pulse

what would I do

in your body's hallway
lichen in its palm

when the future is
here to meet me

sleep that's
if I talk to him

pretend to understand

to the river because
in my heart

the river was
noble cold and impatient

my breathing problem deep enough
might have failed to enter

beyond human concerns

my reluctance
the little monster

a human heart bleeding
progress of feelings

when the child slipped out
of my shadowed life but

carry my sunrise
keep looking for him

climbing alone
always needy

letting him hide in
after I had arrived

I've never told anyone
soft and persistent

if the child I had
was still whimpering

I'm a stone with an eye
how could I be watching the past

already this far out
anything can go to sleep except

the peak we haven't reached yet
he leaves me alone

I just continue
it's not something you'd ask

A Lost Dream and a Memory of the Woman in My Mirror

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My legs begin pumping in full embrace of
the dream I can't tell you because
it hasn't given itself to me
as fully as I was given to it

it's the failure to arrive that I remember

I raise my left hand to bid good day
to that woman I was in the mirror
who lifted her right as if to
shake hands with a new friend

how could we possibly get along that's what I think as I turn

certain she has already rejected me
and how often shall we approach
each other again wondering no
it didn't really happen yet did it

I wake and it's gone it might never have been there

I'd like to start
not have to fear
not have to know why

like a new bird
attached to its voice
I keep it

again without the roster
my name wasn't there or was
someone else's call reaches me

who hasn't yet seen the body
no expectations this life's enough why can't
wind inhale

and my dust's ragged fur lifts
turns the body of its vanishing
concern to a slipknot of air
releasing its careless grip

on every song that sweeps across the unowned meadow

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