Scraps of life, incomplete

By Robin Ray

An Elegy Before Work


The theme for this rainy morning

is dread. Long live the king.

I’ve already turned my back to

those murderous crows perched

in willows at the outskirts of the

graves. In silent repartee they

snicker, peppered by the bushel,

and to us dressed like them,

stinking mimicry.


No one adores these matte black

suits jealously absorbing rainbows.

And that loathsome shovel,

splitting divine earth, un-secretly

waits for me. Patient, so patient.

Biding time to feed its hungry

mother’s carved mouth once again.

Death, be a stranger. I have too

much work to do.



Tug of Ropes


If I acquired the capital to purchase ten

counterfeit passports, I’d pour it all into you

departing these drug-addled woods, shuttle

a fleet of therapists (okay, well, maybe just

one) to entice some magical phrase embedded

within your essence to forego the needle.

Unless, of course, your body is a penknife

and folds from reception. Then I’m too late.


Hide. Problem is, you’re as easy to find as

daylight. All those dead lichens and ferns

where your drops of blood fell are a giveaway.

And in case I missed the striped poles, there are

no hidden barbers offering a shave and a haircut,

two bits. Promise: there will be no blinding

headlights of proselytizing, no fiery mobs

with breaths of scorn, no gendarmes waiting

to pounce like arctic foxes in the snow.


Do you see my hands, splintered and starved

from this chaparral? There’s more grief in the

ridges of my palms than my arms prefer. In fact,

my arms respect me less, tag me a judgmental

dope for ascending these inland shoals to carry

you home, but they’re cowards. No one gives

a toss why they bellyache anyway.





With one colossal step, my legs scissor wide,

I say goodbye to the deciduous cliff as

perennials gossip about privilege to each other,

all awaiting the inevitable splash, gravity’s

insouciant tug. Dauntless troops of striped

maple, yellow buckeye, and northern catalpa

stand guard in the throat of the dense hardwood

forest, too timid to lend a hand, too tight lipped

like deviant squirrels hoarding acorns pilfered

from their own kind. Fifty feet to go and already

I hear the screechy echo of listless conductors

alerting jaded passengers to stand clear of the

closing doors, neophyte waitresses with little

confidence scribbling orders on a notepad, the

bang tango of cacophonous slot machines vying

for attention. Between myself and the encircling

space, I transform into a double-crested

cormorant, long tail, slender peasant neck,

brown-black feathers stroked with just enough

oil to safely impregnate the sluice.



Robin Ray is the author of Wetland and Other Stories (All Things That Matter Press, 2013), Obey the Darkness: Horror Stories, the novels Murder in Rock & Roll Heavenand Commoner the Vagabond, and one book of non-fiction, You Can’t Sleep Here: A Clown’s Guide to Surviving Homelessness. His works have appeared, or is appearing, at Red Fez, Scarlet Leaf Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, Spark, Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Picaroon Poetry, The Bangalore Review, The Magnolia Review, and elsewhere.

Twitter @RobinRay62


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