“These Are Not My Beautiful Slippers”
by Rich Ives
Sachem Skipper Butterfly
Alberto lives in a cigar tube. He made it himself out of leaves, and he’s sleeping, sheltered from rain and wind and from predators. In color, Alberto is dull. His thick heavy furry body and long narrow pointy arms make his head look as wide as his body, but there’s no illusion here. It is.
Alberto’s widely spaced ears (with tiny hooks) are still forming (Has he built a womb?) and his eyes still touch though they will separate little with maturity. He is small and brownish, smooth-skinned. When he wakes, he will produce grating sounds scraping jaws across leaves and stick his long nose where it belongs and where it doesn’t. His neck is constricted in this sleep and nudges the dreams towards escaping.
One morning, a couple of scraggly gangsters shoot all of Alberto’s feet. He doesn’t know how many of them he has, but he thinks it hurts a great deal. He doesn’t wake up.
Another morning, young boys are skinny and troublesome. Their hair falls in their eyes, and they brush it back with their fingers, one at a time, as if it is some kind of a challenge. Alberto can’t figure out what the boys have done wrong, but his feet hurt again.
Someone has given Alberto the wrong body. It’s too small. Some parts are missing. He takes it off and hangs it carefully upon a limb of a tall strong oak tree, which is always watching him. For a moment, before he realizes what this means, he has no body.
Come out, come out, my little one. It’s a voice in Alberto’s head, and he’s too comfortable to respond, but he’s heard the voice before and his curiosity is growing. It’s beginning to bother him that the voice calls him little one.
Now Alberto has fallen, and he does not think he is seriously harmed, but the gentle door is broken. Alberto’s comfort is broken. Alberto’s patience is broken. His feet hurt, so he lifts and lifts his body above them.
Alberto must move quickly to save his heavy body from its own desire to plummet, which makes him difficult to understand. His sentences do not complete themselves, or if they do, only a masterful pursuit can reveal it. Begin with your wounded feet.
Rich Ives has received 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. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and 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–stories) and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press–hybrid).