You’re in prison and they’ve given you hammers. They’re the ones who put you there and they’ve called your mother to the center of the confusing event. They’ve awarded you steaks.
You know what they want, but you don’t know how they want it. It’s not a game. It’s your antecedent finally revealed.
Whistle it home, or just chew on the eggshells?
Your daughter’s a stoolie. Or is she just another hammer? She has too much to say, but you’re not sure if she says it.
“Forget the past,” you tell yourself, thinking about it.
Whose overzealous oven folded your sex kitchen? A setting of hammered bread and suicide access. The “accidents” burning the numbers off your wrist. The signal for one stroke, no blood.
Just when you think it’s safe to abandon safety, here comes the Warden’s Surprise. They let you out. It’s still a prison. But not a single visible hammer. You call your mother. You tell her you’re ready to pay the price. You forget to pick up the steaks.
Meanwhile your daughter the stoolie closes the century alone, but alive. “It’s the future,” you say to yourself, and it is, but the future’s its own prison.
You pick up the maiden sticks.
One stroke. Two strokes.
No one knows how you want it.
It hurts now and you want more.
The sticks are not alone but have no one to tell them apart.
It’s not a game. The hammer fits.
If there’s a house here, it’s unfinished.
No one who lives here can find the right nail.
It’s only a rumor, but it could be true.
The door whispers and whispers. You can’t understand what it says, but you think you know what it means.
It’s enough to make you question your convictions.
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. An interview and 18 hybrid works appear in the Spring 2011 issue of Bitter Oleander. In 2011 he has been nominated twice for Best of the Net and once for the Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award.