Seth Johnson’s Alabama Confessional, 1964

Rich Ives

My darker wood greens within a rustling at the ankles
but what has fallen from the leatherette luncheon booths and
beefy adolescent postures one of my father's weddings
hitched an average man to a beatnik cradling
starlets' applause as the slow sprinkle of
lawn dreams cooled the neighborhood lust
moused down by my body's wrack
swelling the muscles' uncertain rafters I teased my
fingers over the cool rivets of my warm jeans
one thick remark enough
to stuff my pockets with cocky restraint
an irritating smell of tin quonset huts
no your life is not yet the back of my hand
buttered dry with ashes smothered
bad music and a scar on my nosey lip
a lifetime supply of dribble glasses
they're making love and blue jeans
in the big house leadeth me
because temptation welcomes I bark at him I dance
cement from my fingers a kind of begetting
half of me doesn't know but which half
it only meant I could forget again
I'd like to admit I don't know
what I'm doing but back then I could close
my hands on nothing find what I needed
between them
Here's a reason: a father's dead weight
the frigid boat of a mother protestant with fear
a delinquent game of chance behind the boathouse
how can we know what we are when needed
what we are doesn't know
It takes but a song to bear another child
each creature scurrying to the temple
and then the rain and its glad tidings
rising everywhere above the houses
when will all this happiness stop
there's no hunger left the truth keeps fidgeting
over its own sermon the way a dog pulls
at the dangling end of anything sometimes the fish come by
to see if you're occupied by the time you collect yourself
even the river's been taken away

Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at Cloudbank and Mississippi Review. In 2011 he is again a finalist in poetry at Mississippi Review. The Spring 2011 Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and 18 of his hybrid works.