Rich Ives


for Gerald Stern


I am a talented man. I can trip in the driveway

with no apparent cause. I have a weak ankle

that betrays me. I can fall hard enough to die.

And I can get back up and not die. I can do that.


And I can do nothing for long periods of time.

I can do that very very well. And I can stay

inside for all that time like a child with its

first toy and I can be happy and not know.


Sometimes I look at the night sky forever

and I think, I should be up there farting around

and seeking the truth. I should be discovering

the meaning of something important besides myself.


Another thing I can do is pass twenty-three kidney stones

one right after the other, a little army of them marching

one at a time right out to my bladder and past, not knowing

it's one flood after another and their kind is doomed.


I'm afraid of needles, even pine needles. I do that well.

But my heart is strong. It puts up with a lot of crap

and it cares for silly little things that others

take for granted. It’s good at sighing and thumping.


I'm good at sleeping but not at schedules. Sometimes

when I'm supposed to be sleeping I write poems and

I might be sleeping when you think I'm working or

paying attention like right now while I’m talking to you.


But my real talent is discovering talent. I have found

talent under rocks, fleeing, with too many legs and

I have found something like talent taking its time

in the vertical gait of a cedar heading for the clouds.


And there's more talent than anyone, even you, can imagine

inside the gawky vehicles that challenge us in mirrors

and sit at desks and carry us around. I'm still discovering

how many unexpected songs rise from the smells.


This means, of course, that you too are talented

and need only uncover the deeper odors others may already

be aware of. Celebrate your genius. After all, you read

this poem and didn't once think I smelled better than you.

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, and many more. He published a three-volume series of the best of Northwest writing as well as an anthology of contemporary German poetry titled Evidence of Fire. He has published a limited edition collection of his own poetry and translated "Yesterday I Was Leaving" by Johannes Bobrowski. 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.



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