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,
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.