The Results of the Research Pointed to the Possibility of Complicity

     Iím not sure I went to the museum, but while I was there I was hired for a new job making toothpaste tubes. Perhaps they had something to do with restoration. Gregor the Gimp was one coated incident. The snowy coughs of owls in the open night. Afraid they might hug you, you break. The question is never really why. There are laws, and they are not ours. I met a boy called Poplar and his horse Driftwood. Field mice were dogging the yardage at the bottom of the herd. At each desperation the river unfurled. A new crop of factories were falling through the night air, a collection of tearful mothers adorning their weighted flight, a banister of delayed weather reaching, shuffling slowly skyward.

     A bluejay went to the doctor to discuss some difficulties with the bluejay diet, but the lack of samples on the doctorís porch, where the bluejay frequently waited for the doctorís advice, suggested that the doctor was addressing a different problem altogether or may even have forgotten the bluejay. This had never happened before, and the bluejay flew in the open window to see what had happened to the doctor, and the truth was that nothing had happened to him, which apparently was the problem, for the doctor sat at his desk, patientless, eyeing a large glass of whiskey he had poured for himself upon the cancellation of the dayís only patient.

     A shadow would never live alone, but donít worry. Your shadow appears only one slow wing at a time and will never leave you. If it seems to be gone, youíre standing on it.

     In the museum library, I discovered that I had not been a ďResurrectionĒ man, a bodysnatcher, although the pay equaled a teacherís salary. By 1829 we were murdering for the bodies instead of digging them up. In the same museum I discovered that I had never burked (1) anyone who didnít deserve it.

     What does a shadow know of time? The shadow inside is never alone, like a lover who departs for the good of the loved one.

Iím adjacent now and unsung, Miss Gingerís brood voice a translucent crowd of lamb saddening westward, where Miss Ginger pauses to touch her gloves to the eyelids of the sleeping idea she had, wondering if it could ever belong to her. Her dead child was wondering Why should they fear me? No one seemed to understand that I had once lived inside her husband, before he became a bodysnatcher.

--as if we could open our palm to know who we are in just any century:

     Iím a contented little beeny boy. Iím in love with unlimited cud. Gathering unto is better the second or third time when itís got more me already in it.

     The children are free today. Swine flu did that. I want a piggy kind of release too. I want outrageous. I want unexpected. And now happiness is an invisible form of exquisite pain. I feel like Iím bouncing from idea to idea, but Nature supports me with a hummingbird. it takes so little to make a fuss.

     Because I tell the truth, Iím not the one with your best interests at heart.

     I bought a kennel filled with little people who would otherwise have been homeless. I did this because the wedding was put off.

     God is not a just a god because God is not just god. We make of our ideals what is needed. They do not make us. God is another god tomorrow. The one and only for the time we can only think of one.

     The frogs will be destroyed first, but they were never that friendly anyway. All that croaky bellowing was never for us.

     I rode the horse to the cloud, which was offering salvation and I got off. Big fucking deal.

Although my thinking has matured, my body remains inflated by mischief (2) and my heart, in particular, likes to play with what it needs to survive, sending it away for a little revival experience and cleaning it up again when it returns. It leaves me feeling pumped and tasted. I studied anatomy (3) to learn why this happens.

     You were the parent of your shadow the moment light first saw you, but shadows have no children of their own, even though they mate (4) freely with the shadows of your acquaintances.

     The noise of the visitorsí eyes interrupts the silence in the halls. A vast field in which we are all growing together and slightly swaying, as if some hidden art had leaned us in the direction of a lake. (5)

     I wanted someone to lift me up and place me on the wall, someone whose life stands alongside mine, in brackets.

     There were things that I wanted to do that I knew that I wouldnít be able to do. Thatís why I was in a museum. There really were other people in the museum, and I didnít know what to think of that. I thought maybe I wasnít supposed to notice them and just look at the art work, but I couldnít help noticing them. Sometimes they were the art, and I had to revise the way I had thought about hanging myself on the wall. Would they look at me the same way I looked at them? Did we even need any paintings on the walls?

     I pretended that the colors were words that went together in a surprising order and I read the paintings, and at the end of each one, I felt old and tired and very very happy.

     When youíve gone, your friends will not allow your shadow to stay. When your friends have gone, your shadow will no longer appear. Not in any way your friends will know is yours. Maybe you could appreciate this, there on an empty wall.

     A bluejay seems only to have a rudimentary understanding of art, but a doctor can afford to collect things, which is why he can sometimes be a source of information on art. Frequently, however, nothing happens and whiskey becomes a vision. The bluejay did not really understand this but presented an alternative to the practice of medicine the doctor chose to ignore.

My shadow does not know itself, but my shadow knows me. I could not decide if the museum had gotten the best of me, so I left the museum. Iím not sure I went to the museum while I was there, but I have gotten quite good at noticing things and going away.

     I donít know what to do with the toothpaste tubes because they are not filled with toothpaste, but I did notice the earth painting a blue flower on a dirty cup outside the window next to the bathroom, the only one in the museum. At least I think it was a window.

     The melodrama of garlic was floating from the stove. Iím pretty sure the stove wasnít a stove. Iím pretty sure the paintings were paintings, but Iím still not sure I was in the museum. Poplar and his horse Driftwood were in the museum. And Gregor the Gimp. They were probably in a painting, but how could I have known their names? Field mice were a part of the unknowing. And new factories.

     I wondered which century held Miss Ginger as my name. I wondered about the lake and the departing meat. I wondered about the little people welcoming frogs into their paintings. I wondered about the arrangement of their tongues before they began to say together, You poor child.

     I wondered about how many times I had wondered if I had been to the museum or not. I thought about making a museum out of that. I thought about all the strange things I thought about when I thought about that, and then I thought about that, and then I went to that thought and I lingered there. I validated my thinking even if my thinking wasnít going to validate me.

1. after William Burke, a bodysnatcher who murdered his victims by smothering them, caught in Edinburgh in 1827, hanged in 1829 (Sir Walter Scott attending) 

2. What I want is a long ways away, where it lives, while it pretends to be here. Put it in a bowl and look at it through a telescope. Itís wonderful and far away and you made it live beyond you, where all good things live.

3. I am certain that the voices of little people are never so little, but I remain uncertain why a man holding a delicate creature of twigs and down once offered himself to my dinner companion and poured rice all over her rice.

4. his waffle hat softening until it could no longer shed rain

5. Wheat canít swim, but it holds you between golden sheets and invites the butcherís fragrance.

6. his egg salad shoes, his sausage-cased hosiery


Rich Ives is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. The Spring 2011 Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and 18 of his hybrid works. His book of days, Tunneling to the Moon, is appearing daily all year long at Silenced Press.