by Robin Ray

Steepest of Hills

Who can sing
when the water’s edged,
mouths are paste dry,
fruit trees stand barren
as virgin tides?

Step after step
up that steepest of hills,
hungry vampire stones
live off the burst blisters
of innocent seekers.

Kippers in the sand,
raisins in the rocks –
cruel mirages with
more lessons to teach than
grades of right or wrong.

Two Hearts

I can continue guilt-free about adulting,
spitefully neglect the child itching to
burst from my insides, but I sense this
isn’t the appropriate me to digress.

Peace is lackadaisical now, a troubling
afterthought at best. I find relief in the
knowing, the concealment of my own
autocratic ingenuity, deodorized, free.

Two hearts collide in a conflict; I dive
beneath a table to avoid the sparks that
can ignite a water-logged bridge.

You wished an anger management class
from me; instead, I signed up for the
course, Exploring the Afterlife. Should
have known it was fake when the
instructor wanted his fee up front.

Trust, a fleeting kiss on a bridge in a
monsoon. We romance each other,
wonder if the moment was heightened
by lightning and thunder, routine
Hollywood gaffer/key grip nonsense.

I wanted to be your false god, your
slingshot hero. You smelt a ruse from
the distance, could’ve conspired to turn
and walk away, but you had your own
sleeved tricks, didn’t you?


These industrial bees
outside my window
getting amusingly drunk
in the nectar of jasmine
reminds me of one thing –
our inevitable differences
are the crash test dummies
of history: better to savor
the sweetest juices on our
tongues that urge the pains
in our fragile bones.

Disposable Me

The specter of our bond is an illusion, spans
further as if dust upon pollen spurned by a sneeze.
I’ve trusted my eyes blindly so long I’ll loathe
the day they rise to betray me – yellow turns to
black, me believing canaries are a threat to my
cornfields, marigolds are bat orchids in play.

As a child, I was denied unlimited access to new
feelings, drifted in and out of obligations beyond
my reach. Aging, I couldn’t hate myself as much
as gravity already did. Death, the trivial cousin
transplanted from picture album to shadow, palls
over laughter, trembles in brevity’s wake.

I dive in the lake near Half Moon Bay, surface
with a conch of our histories, listen to Tonto
gently stroking his pinto, whistle-stops of loaded
freight trains dragging millions to their doom, and
ruddy sages bowing to winter. You are impossible,
I say, like a hurricane concerned enough to rend
itself nearing landfall. Nonchalantly, you reply,
How light is an angel, her fall broken by fog? If
I’m forced to adapt to my indiscretions, I’ll lose
interest in us. You remain silent, still.

My friend the cyber clown tricks hard drives into
submission, tickles secrets from their circuits,
watches generals shackled off to prison two by two.
He’d counted more scooters than waiters on the
streets of Mumbai crossing each other in the miasma
of truth. I am the man fashioned from napkins, alone.

About the Author:

Robin Ray is the author of Wetland and Other Stories (All Things That Matter Press, 2013), Obey the Darkness: Horror Stories, the novel Commoner the Vagabond, the poetry collection Welcome to Flowerville: Poetry from San Juan Commons, and one book of non-fiction, You Can’t Sleep Here: A Clown’s Guide to Surviving Homelessness. His works have appeared at Delphinium, Bangalore, Squawk Back, Outsider, Red Fez, Jerry Jazz Musician, Underwood Press, Scarlet Leaf, Neologism, Spark, Aphelion, Vita Brevis, and elsewhere.