nature bird water animal

Flash No. 23 – Rich Ives

Smoke Path

by Rich Ives

Guinea Pig Louse

I cannot rehearse the pathways of smoke, but I spend my entire life on the journey, my one particular part, small, wingless, and flattened. You would not guess it when meeting me alone and my host can be nearly gone, emaciated. I place my eggs upon her hair. But there’s a second host and more further south. I could migrate and release my benefactor. I could trade in my habitat. But in this way deceptive birds might find me sailing.

One goose has swallowed the night, another the day. You can’t tell them apart until they release you with a honk and a piece of their travels, as if it were a language and not an event. But isn’t an event that grows and shrinks just a little each day just like a language?

If two pigs had swallowed the same things, would they even be able to tell the difference, or would they go running and swallowing after, with or without definition? And two humans, would they discuss their preferences or rush each other to the imaginary table?

Smoke too can swallow and host gatherings for the remaining light or darkness since the fire seems to have fallen behind. Smoke is not hungry, but still, it can consume. If a thing belongs to smoke for even a short while, it will be difficult to release it. You could, however, develop a taste for smoke and apply it to nearly everything you gather.

Even iron has a new history here, in which it softens and runs and signs up swallows for the afterlife. Where did iron come from? Are we going to consider a flock of winged phone booths next, departing for the silent islands? Or stars thorned into the pads of your feet?

Put this on your list because I know you have one, though I can’t figure out what the items have in common except you, because now weather has come over and spilled like a large cloud confused by swallowing too many smaller storms.

And where is smoke now? Hah, those pathways didn’t need any rehearsal. They’re professional and nearly everywhere, and one morning of smoke is the same as one evening of smoke, but there is always more than one. Once again, I’m playing the part of the actor who’s so good at forgetting himself, he could be his own secret fire. Once again, I am drifting away dark and giving my discoveries away.

Rich Ives
Rich Ives

Rich Ives’ 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–stories), Old Man Walking Home in the Dark (Cyberwit-poems), A Servant’s Map of the Body (Cyberwit-fiction), and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press–hybrid).

Photo by Ezequiel Da Silva on