Family Tree


You came back with the dog, said Aunt Elsie she had her the croup again.
Something about a broken fire hydrant. Something about Cyril and a missing leash.
Used to be he’d hide a mouse turd to the bottom of her oatmeal, that Uncle Cyril did.
That there dog should never been ‘lowed to be leavin’ this neighborhood atall.
What ya want yerself such a damn mystery for? I could hold the sucker’s
lampshade up to a strong light and see people way out there kissin’ the sick cat.
Everythin’s got tracks. 16th and Douglas then. I cain’t hardly feel things like that no
more. Ask Elsie what time it is, she’ll say, “None left with Tuesday on ‘em.” That’s what
she always says.
“Wrong man, wrong day” she says. That’s the way most of this family got here.
Weren’t but yesterday, seemed like, Uncle Arthur got him a dozen pair hangin’
over to his gar-age. There she was, not a stitch ‘neath all those patches. But I guess he’d a
been right somehow, though none of us figured it yet. Lots of evidence fallin’ out to little
That was down to the old house. Don’t know fer certain it ever happened quite
exactly like that, but that’s the way I been rememberin’ it. I couldn’t help but be laughin’.
Old people get ya goin’, ya know, they ain’t seen you in ages and they start fussin’.
Pritnear soon ya start losin’ yer minor appendages. Ever’ which direction, seems like, up
in smoke, so I start up to arguin’ with busted radiators and it seems like that’s what
makes the dog eat my toothbrush.
A blizzard been livin’ north of here some years now. Ever’ winter it visits itself a
different uncle. Christmas is how we count casualties. The reason of it has somethin’ ta
do with the way a kid don’t know squat wakes up every mornin’. A dream with a shiny
scar rolls up cigarettes in its shirt sleeve and . . . well, you know.
The birds they was chirpin’ in that little stay-at-home dark they got that opens up
just when you can see where you’re goin’. Don’t look at no past happenin’s like that.
Just what’s comin’. It ain’t like no print of some criminal’s thumb provided any helpful
clues to the more reliable patterns yer everyday asshole can find in the scattered bones.
So the family suffered and the elders shuffled out their desperate aging daughters.
Weren’t like it could do nobody no good. Not like that atall. Fact it was downright
stu-pid. Blood simple. Ex-ces-sive. It got splintered into tinier and tinier disasters and we
been listenin’ to the cover-ups ever since.
In time the flood dried up. These things ain’t really personal. Simple as that. The
flood dried up.
And so this is where we are now. Seems like the body just flutters and rises.
Mornin’ spills.
Maybe none of us can really ever say we gone too far, but there’s a point where
what’s happenin’ cain’t no longer see you and it’ll do anythin’ to keep its self alive.
Let’s discuss the ways of it one more time and if that ice in yer glass
sets off some tiny kinda accident, then let’s us just pause there, way on up in that
gettin’-in-yer-bizness-don’t-need-us-fer-nothin’ air. Back and back and between us. It’s come so far now and you’re the first loser to open it up like this.
Out at the field’s end, sometimes you can see a white picket fence and swallows
like tiny capes flappin’ all sudden and small, away and away and away again in the
floppy breeze.
I always wondered why the moon comes down silent and touches when you hold
the cool handle of the plow and it still bein’ only the middle of the damn afternoon.

Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.