One Perception of Grandeur Passes Quietly into Another
by Rich Ives
In the ceiling above the sky’s ceiling, the fallen seed cannot see the flower. I’m reading a worthless book by candlelight when an owl asking me to ignore it asks louder, and I hoot.
I’m writing an unpublishable book by association. You seem to be here in the morning after all.
If you are the sun, then I must rotate to absorb you. Turn around. Look at me, you disseminator. Do this great thing only for me, and I shall give you back what I have taken. Only fallen from your success can you see how great you were.
Plot Is the Enemy of Progress
What happens is always happening for the same reasons. We can use new examples of grand traditions to understand these things, or we can look elsewhere. The more certain we sound, the more we are suspected. The effects will not change until the causes do. We are the causes. We do not advance ourselves merely by understanding what we have always done.
If I envied wrong words, it must have been because they were in the right place. That’s not where I was when I was reading them.
Whether I placed the words in a box of plot or a box of innocence, the mystery that interested me most remained unsolved. The box of innocence, however, didn’t ask for resolution. It was too busy attending to the complexity of the question to try to contain all of the answer. This meant that it could no longer be referred to as innocence, and the innocence jumped into another box.
I was busy naming the clouds before I knew it. I called them what happens next, and I called them this is the way it has always been. I put new clothes on them, and I taught them to dance differently. I tried to get that slouch out of their walk, but they always smiled with self-satisfaction. All you had to do was make a few things happen and everyone forgot about the limp.
I was drinking something, and I was trying to make sure the liquid did what I thought it was supposed to do, and I choked on it because my body had other ideas. I kept on choking and people were telling me how wonderful I looked while I was choking, which they seemed to think was going to explain something that would keep them from choking. So I coughed up a little plot and attached it to the words that were already forming a little community. The little community didn’t object, but neither did it change anything to accommodate the plot, which couldn’t sit still and just turned around and left because the plot was liquid, and it soaked into the earth.
The insects that had been drinking the plot remained barefoot, and the birds continued swimming smoothly above us, dragging along their fat airy footprints. Do we have to explain what happens in a sequence every time we leave the meadow?
Plot is always chasing the future around. If I ever get to the future, it’ll be too late to turn around, but worse, the future will be all gone as fast as I can grab it. If I start with the future, I’ll have to repeat what I did to know how to say it. By the time I finish it’ll be the past. Or you’ll make something up that could be wrong, or worse, better than what I did. It’s a good thing I seldom get what I want. It’s a good thing part of the future arrived a long time ago, without so much baggage and lets me call it the future even though it really isn’t.
Words are like stones when you’re telling a story. You can live among them or you can use them to build a foundation. If you throw too many stones, the foundation of your house will come apart. Those stones in your foundation will try to replace the stones you threw away. That’s what happens when you tell people too much about what’s going to happen. It’s too late. Don’t try to take them back. That will just put you further behind.
Sometimes my skin seems harder than the skin of others. If you live with stones, you have to wait a long time for something you can recognize as important to happen. You can’t expect yesterday to teach you much about tomorrow. Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to see that we’ve already lived longer than the stones we’ve placed ourselves inside of.
So then what happened? You weren’t thinking about what might have happened? You were in a different story, the one where life hadn’t decided what it was going to do to you next, and you were living a great life. You are living a great life. That doesn’t happen in the past. That doesn’t happen in the future. Even if it does, you won’t know it until the future is the present. I’m thinking about what I’m not doing now just at the moment I’m not doing it. I’m happy not doing it, but it’s your story now. What aren’t you doing? What’s getting in the way? That’s yours.
The important things that are missing do not need you to wonder about them. They have their own voices and you will listen, but will you hear what they are really saying? What do you need? is a question to be asked only by those with too much success, who have altered the meaning of what they have acquired.
Life will take the heart apart and show you what it knows, but solution is not a word for what one comes to when the heart is known. A solution comes only after the problem is over. I’m grateful my heart is still hurting.
You have to make the words quit looking at themselves to see what they can really do. Do not do this again, they say to you each time you use them.
Someone says, I have seen your poems, (Have they read them?) but this person is already talking about someone else. These meanings are not my meanings, but the ones who have given themselves away. They’ve reconstructed the bridge that lies in front of this person that seems to be still standing where the journey begins, trying to compliment their deliberate stationary feet. Noticing is an awfully short footpath. One footprint inside another is not the same person. I have seen your poems too, I might say in a variety of ways, though you may not know you’ve written them. Their wings are heavy and still close to the ground. The possibilities are still barefoot, and I like that. Please don’t put their shoes on, not until you’ve flown away from appearances without actually leaving.
The shoes have a life of their own. It’s just that the life doesn’t do any more than you do when you’re convinced you already fit.
About the author:
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. He has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include “Light from a Small Brown Bird”(Bitter Oleander Press–poetry), “Sharpen” (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), “The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking”—What Books) and “Tunneling to the Moon” (Silenced Press–hybrid).