Issue 20: Rich Ives

Toad Child


swollen thoughts in their arrogant foul atrium

                              long for the mud

life sticks to you there

           where the child slips back

what the child knows begins releasing

           the air in your hollow bones

one leg of a fretful god’s limping knowledge

           caressed by the stink of before-birth

the other threatening the same ancient weather with

                              the wound he can’t even recognize

           further below

your wings are stalking the vertical road’s

           inevitable appointment for

                              the last day’s investigation

                              his story could be yours

stick in his hand cracked low like a claw

           tortured to a latent greeting


every fresh insect at first only a tongue dart

           what have you done to him

                              now listen to the corrections

a summer station in your treeway

           imagine a child could do it

a pair of feet

           excommunicated from the body

           left standing beside their

                              imaginary little overboots

                                              in the glorious mudroom

those whose eyes have not been plucked out

           those about to arrive barefoot

                              on the ancient stage

are the listening objects


imagine the toad child on wheels

           tricycle boy pierced by saintly arrows

                              his illicit owl children

his guests at the table of his undesirable body

one eye falls out and sees the other eye

           dreaming of falling out

storm limbs fat with draped leaves

           toad child’s slime-royal secrets

too long in the rain that rises

           damp shuffle of foot breezes

a meal of pucker and contrition

           oh friends of the swelling

snow on the bones of these gentled hills


           golden foam on the salver

has this been arranged by royal clouds

what proclamation spits so

                                              what leash

serpent-like and tented in

           to the shelter of cautionary rice

morning tilts like another country

                                              oh winsome of antelope breath

                              only forestry awaits your silent meadow

only snorted bath salts for your neighbor’s nosey dust-bowl

have we not arrived at a future without a progress

now bring elemental fishermen to the ignorant flood

oh colonial ribaldry are you dinner now or conviction


shall we now draw Evening with a Darker Pencil

           as if it would flow as but a spigot’s operation

a fear of oration inhabits him this toad child

cloned to bundles of protestation and tears

for he is all of us speaking out against

                                              all of us

he should be rested to a home

                              for the criminally sane

he should be given peristaltic asylum by

                                              a hung jury

the toad child’s quest spits up blooded words

                                                              the child eats

the toad child’s vest shines with grease

                              from the leg of an ant

the toad child’s nunnery is a limousine

           with its own executioner’s brush

shall we now draw The Last Days of Reasoning

           as if it were a delightful abstraction


the ancient windows of pain open the toad child

           offering juvenilia with crayon sunsets

or scavenging sewage with a golden spoon

complimentary fingers touch him to tickledom

           playmates with too much imagination

their rubbery gunboats innocent as hoisted cheese

           in the alleys of window wells seven maids

celebrate milky holidays and coax the toad child

a child finds the child and keeps him in a box

                              flies and flies and dinner and flies

           perhaps a beetle for showing his tongue

I was reading The Political Cannibals of Eastern Wisconsin

                              to my own children at the time I think

           one of them wanted to become a popular butcher

but the tale of the toad child scared them beyond

I told the story only once you masters of flight

           though it was a favorite of my own childhood

           soon I became enamored of forgetfulness so that

as my children grew older they appreciated me more

they explained to me that I loved their mother which explained

                                              why I did those things to her

it made them feel important I was happy

                              I had learned to forget

I let them think it was a disease

I unburdened myself of memories


           inside his cardboard prison the toad child

could hear the fly swatter when the lid was raised

soon the noise made his tongue flicker

always he waited for the lid to close

you should not give your enemies

an advantage

he sucked the bodies empty and dry

                                                              the other child

brought more

                              toad child wasn’t eating?

how quickly the flies dried up

an odor of garden approached

scarlet flowers in the box

                                              what was this

the toad child had a creepy


the flies became greasy and fat

then a faint odor of sunshine and carrion

one day was longer the lid remained

so many flies he could hear them

no dinner


another child opened the box

           fly dust and toad child’s

                                              skin like paper

he set the box beside the first child

the new child gagged


           the box was open

toad child smelled dinner


weeks later

           the flies stopped

weeks later

           toad child had fattened

could barely move

would no longer fit in the window well

           adventure beckoned

the cruel road of two dimensional children


but the toad child was changing


where two feet had been

toad child went back for

                                              his box


went looking for children

the generous smaller parts

that attracted so much more

already aging

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).