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The Ornithological Significance of Light Deprivation

by Rich Ives

The following piece received Honorable Mention in our 2013 Hallow/Hallowed Flash Fiction Contest.

The only color here is the dry rattle of cornstalks nearly holding on to yellow and the sky dragging away a memory of blue. Leftover color is a bird flung across the sky and another landing and a collection of echoes sounding like a cloth signaling to a vessel of night, testing the seams. I stopped often and put my ear to things, and as I did so, they listened to me.

Some species are easily compromised, and each grackle is its own certificate of authenticity, signed gradually by wind and hunger. Only illusion is held under the water for more than thirty-two seconds.

Blackbirds use structural integrity to compensate for lack of content.

Life is a seductive disease that contains its own cure.

I put my trust in the most beautiful room I’ve ever been gradually refused, my silence finely tuned.

Today I’m wearing a cloudless hat. I suppose it benefits me in some way I can’t see.

God is on the measured river, counting the faithful rocks between his moony ears, adjacent to convicted dreaming. What I believe in matters less than what I know, a mended sky torn by traveling, meaning only as much as the notorious infidelity of frogs, which is more than you might expect.

The mountain’s bones show through the wind-polished ice as if drowning could go on as long as rising. Waking up takes a lifetime.

The frozen river dripping somewhere to the sea is an inevitability that seems to begin even before we get there. This, of course, is the real dream, and that was the dream of reality, but no window opens in the neutral wall.

It might have been the most moving thing I’d ever seen, but of course, it didn’t change anything, and the arms that welcome you best are finally yours.

Having discovered the Pediatric Constellations, my wife has gone a bit moon-headed and feathery. On the Isle of Rest lives a master of the pelican lute. Like an agile skeleton, he is your guide, O moon-faced dove of gullibility.

Amongst celebrated forms of dark nymph-like unveiling, out of his head another dark head has popped, in which there floats a fool’s flock of crow-headed concubines. I have then for a friend a disturbance.

It was a well-known cloud and remained a bit self-conscious. It seemed to be swallowing up great mounds of light from its backside.

The wind has stopped, but the stones’ breath continues slowly traveling, their pelts thick as their thoughts against the piercing cold.

She raised her hand, to touch me I thought, but the gesture was more as if she were presenting a small dangerous insect as a gift.

Portraits were landscapes and landscapes portraits.

Even a clever fly sometimes catches his feet in the honey.

When you think about a box, don’t contain yourself. If you’re inside the box, convince others there is no box. If you’re outside the box, notice how square the sky seems to have become. Build another box outside your box. Keep doing this until the clouds are no longer square.

Of course, I really didn’t have a wife, so I placed her inside the box, where the square clouds were. She was self-conscious and bright, and I held her under the water for thirty-three seconds. When she sputtered, “I do,” we were married. It was dark enough inside to encourage flight, but we didn’t know how many boxes we were.

My wife left me to my own devices. That was my mistake before it was hers. Feathers, I thought to myself, what’s wrong with her feathers?

Even in the dark we appear to say such things. I am your guide. Come lead me.

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, Dublin Quarterly, 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. In 2011 he received a nomination for The Best of the Web and two nominations for both the Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. His book of days, Tunneling to the Moon, is currently being serialized with a work per day appearing for all of 2013 at

Lead image: “Eyeball.” (via Flickr user The_Gut)

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