A Picnic in Nebraska
by Rich Ives

Let’s allow for the unacknowledged music.  And horses
in the neighboring field perhaps.  Suppose
a platter of orange peels remained on the blanket.
Suppose a dream of a miraculous pillar
of distant oyster cream had haunted
the groggy afternoon nap, the wine bottle

inviting bees in for a short wet walk. Suppose
the afternoon’s symbolism wasn’t wasted on you,
almost sublimely pleasant you suppose, but so quickly
over and therefore a truly superior
disappointment.  And now
I can’t seem to remember

what a pheasant looks like.  Even the trees here
cluster together, dry and brown and correct in their uniforms,
standing tall and away from the dangerous few farmers
fully enclosed in their plexiglass cabs
who no longer seem to desire
the same things we do.

Couldn’t we invite the folk stories,
even if the country’s not ours?  Perhaps a talking fish
or a mule hiding a stubborn treasure.  Perhaps
another wooden bride.  Even if her leaves
have got to stop, couldn’t we fashion a sturdy axe handle
and offer a few more shares in the old soil bank?

The breeze is back, and a careful assortment of clouds.
Let’s give the uncertain evening our full and temporary
attention.  Let’s try to accept the grain’s promise.
Suppose this dirt sea furrowed the courtship.  Suppose
homesteaders living under sod roofs had burrowed
beyond the reach of any future with you in it.  Suppose

the abandoned gas pump and the dead diner.  Suppose
another dog-eared blue neon motel under the reservoir,
the ceiling too deep to sprout.  Then perhaps
you’re not really from here and when you begin
once more circling my mouth, what I welcome
barely resembles this ocean’s lost and ancient tattoo.

The neighbor’s baby hound dog on the porch begins
practicing his something you want in the trees howl.
His complaint’s answer is not an open door
or something dead falling but the echo of that other
voice across the dark hollow, just when you’ve
decided you’re the only one chasing the mystery.


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
, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction
, and many more.  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.  In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at
Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at
Cloudbank and Mississippi Review.  In 2011 and 2012 he is again
a finalist in poetry at
Mississippi Review, as well as receiving a
nomination for The Best of the Web and two nominations for both
the Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net.  Ives is the 2012 winner
of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from
Thin Air magazine.  The Spring
Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and
eighteen of his hybrid works.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 7, Number 1
(Spring 2012)

Copyright © 2012
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.