The Clairvoyance of the Blinded Eye
Because the ordinary citizens were responding so well to our pleas for assistance, the authorities decided we must be faking it. We weren’t homeless and we didn’t have hungry children and jobs were waiting for us to return from our vacations.
They tried sending us home, but the cardboard walls made them angry. A policeman thought our stomachs were singing and tried to find some harmonies. He wanted the sound of unexpected waterfalls because it was Christmas and there was too much snow and his parents lived in Hawaii. We felt sorry for him and offered him folded newspaper swans and the telephone number of Jesus and all the degrees we had been saving. We had already given all our pets to passing motorists so that no one would eat them though some of the motorists may have.
We ate the holster of the fallen policeman who had joined us in protest, although he no longer understood what we were protesting, and we had a contest to remember his name, but no one won.
Then the ordinary citizens quit responding. And the new policemen looked too clean and well-kept and the citizens didn’t believe they knew the truth about us either, not until they were laid off and a few of their stomachs began singing something like badly harmonized Christmas carols and their uniforms started to smell like cabbage.
Then the authorities decided those men could never have been policemen at all and they sent everybody home again and we wrote “window” on our cardboard with the pens they had given us to sign the evictions. Most of us climbed out before our sagging walls collapsed in the onslaught of water cannons, but the dreamy ceilings had never been properly anchored to the falling walls and we used them to collect rain for drinking water most of the next day.
The citizens watched and envied our pleasure at the temporary satisfaction of our endless thirst. The citizens begged us for a taste. We held what was left of our homes in our hands, where it slept peacefully while we opened our doors and let the clouds back out.
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 and many more. He published a three-volume series of the best of Northwest writing as well as an anthology of contemporary German poetry titled Evidence of Fire. He has published a limited edition collection of his own poetry and translated Yesterday I Was Leaving by Johannes Bobrowski. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize.