Friday, November 2, 2012

The Ray Poems : A Chapbook of Sorts

hello all

sorry for the delay this week, but the hurricane cut-off my internet/phone (which, if this is the worst
that i can complain about, i'm pretty damned lucky).  Anyway, did get some writing done.  so enjoy this
20+ series of poems.


ray poem (the first time)

the first time
that i saw ray

my parents has moved us
to the dead end
from pittsburgh to west virginia
to pittsburgh again

from four houses
in just under three years

and there was ray and his sister
watching as we pulled
our car into the driveway

ray was wearing
a red and blue football t-shirt

holding a model of the starship enterprise

my mother was so happy
at the sight of him
that she turned to me and said

and you thought
there wouldn’t be any other kids
in this neighborhood.

ray poem (zap)

natalie brown
grabbed my hand
and wrote the word zap on the back of it

then she wrote a time

she looked at me and winked
said, don’t worry, it’s just a game

she flipped my hand over

i’m going to write the name of someone
in the palm of your hand
if you look at the palm before the time
on the back of your hand
you have to kiss this person

i didn’t really understand the game
but it was enough that natalie brown
had singled me out from the rest of us playing wiffleball
for this fine distinction

after she wrote the name on my palm
she closed my hand
but it held it for a few seconds longer

electricity ran through me

then natalie let me go and went off giggling
with her friends

the time on my palm said three o’clock

open it, mitchell said to me when the time hit

so i did
ray’s name was written in the palm of my hand

he looked at me from second base and blushed
i called him a fag

then i turned toward natalie
who gave me the finger
before getting up off the concrete
to saunter toward home

her fourteen year-old ass shaking
such slick confidence.

ray poem (sugar blues)

none of us
knew vegetarians
or health nuts
in those days

but ray had never had sugar
beef or pork

he said his old man
had read a book
called sugar blues
and it changed his life

the rest of us kids
just made fun of him for it

we called ray a veg-head
and wouldn’t let him play ball anymore

then all of us ruddy faced
wholesome american kids
went home to dinner

where our over-worked mothers made
us roast and gave us popsicles and pie

as our dads fell asleep
reading the evening news.

ray poem (combat boots)

in the fall
mitchell got these big football games
going on the dead end

it would be one street of kids
versus another street of kids

no one wanted ray
because although he was good at a lot of things

(primarily guitar and star wars and star trek)

he couldn’t play football to save his life

so whenever we’d play
ray would watch sadly from his porch

and his old man would come outside
to play acoustic guitar at the end of their driveway

he did this antagonize us
and to try and distract us from the game

ray’s old man was nuts
he wore military clothing
even though he’d never been to vietnam

and it was rumored that he’d murdered
his old girlfriend’s dog back in the 60’s

on one afternoon we had a real nail biter going
a back and forth bruiser
going with this gang from up on dauntless street

but then some asshole threw the football into ray’s yard

his old man stopped playing guitar
long enough to take the ball
and start walking toward his house with it

ray’s old man  made ray come off the porch
to play catch with our ball in their driveway

leaving us kids standing on the street
shocked and empty-handed

but then the visiting team started shouting

combat boots!
combat boots!

at ray and his old man

until they made enough noise
for ray to start crying

and for all the good concerned neighbors
to come outside to see what was going on.

ray poem(eggs)

my mother told me
that they were a bad bunch
but the gang on dauntless street
knew things
like how in cold weather
took on the consistency
of dried paint
and while i was a little bit skeptical
at frist
when i saw ray’s old man
chiseling away
at the yellow smear on his windshield
the very next
i was inclined to believe
those kids.

ray poem (vietnam)

ray’s old man
stopped washing his car
one bright saturday afternoon
to tell us
loud and noisy kids
playing football in the dead end
that he knew men
from vietnam
who threw kids out of planes

when we told
my old man this
he laughed
looked out the living room window
and told us
to tell ray’s dad
that he was one
of those men.

ray poem (bards)

the kids in my neighborhood
were poets

we were budding bards

on this one bored saturday
a group of us got together to write a poem
about ray

it went like this:

ray ray
is a son-of-a-bitch
cocksucking motherfucking
fag-face vegetable
….his dad is a bone-face dog

we were so proud of our work
that we made tons of copies of the poem,
and tapped it up on telephone poles
throughout the neighborhood

oddly enough the next morning
all of the poems were gone
and no one saw ray for a week

he was a tough critic
for being only thirteen years-old.

ray poem (carob chip cookies)

ray’s grandmother
kept plastic on the living room furniture
so we couldn’t sit on it
and watch star trek
in the summer

instead we sat on the floor
eating carob chip cookies
which tasted like dirt to me
as kirk and spock visited another planet
and ray’s old man
stalked from the living room
upstairs to his bedroom

where he slammed the door
and played his electric guitar
so loudly
we had no choice
but to abandon
the starship enterprise
and take our snacks

ray poem (collar bone)

it was one of those rare times
when ray played
football with us

mitchell had him do a button hook
which, of course,
ray fucked up

when the ball hit him
in the collar bone
ray fell to the pavement
and started to cry

mitchell stood over ray and  said
get up you pussy
as he rolled his eyes at me

after all
i was the one
who suggested we let ray play.

ray poem (wheat pizza)

ray came with us
to get pizza

he was a vegetarian and could only
eat the wheat kind

which mitchell said we’d ordered

when the pie came out
white floury and covered in sauce
ray demanded his money back

when mitchell told him
to fuck himself
ray left the pizza place
and ran all the way home

an hour later
walking up the dead end stuffed
ray’s old man was waiting for us
at the end of his driveway

he asked mitchell if ray’d known
that it was regular pizza
and mitchell said yes

thank you was all that ray’s old man said

before walking up the driveway
and slamming the door shut

we threw the football around a little bit
but something about that day
seemed a little bit off.

ray poem (street fight)

we heard the noise
during dinner
and then ran out of the house

in the middle of the dead end
ray and mitchell
were clutching each other neck and neck

ray’s mother
was screaming for help
trying to get in the middle of them

then ray took a swing
and got mitchell right below his left eye

they let go of each other
and ray stalked off toward
his house

like the old prize fighter
i always knew he was
deep down inside
that skinny kid exterior.

ray poem (butcher knife)

ray and i
were on my porch
playing with star wars figures

when all of the sudden
his front door opened
and his mother came racing out
onto the front lawn
hurrying into their big blue car

then ray’s old man
came storming out of the house
with a butcher knife
pounding on the hood of the car
and screaming

bitch, if you don’t kill me now
i’ll do it myself

before collapsing to his knees
on the soft green grass
of spring

watching as she drove
so very very far away.

ray poem (new neighbors)

the first black family
to move to the dead end

they were pretty sure
that it was ray’s old man
who’d broken into their house
and sprayed

nigger go home

in black
all over their freshly painted walls

after all
who else would it have been
on this quiet suburban street

where everyone else
seemed so nice and so welcoming

save the crazy man
in camouflage
who played guitar on his driveway

and begged for mercy
from the steel tip
of a butcher knife?

ray poem (arizona)

ray talked about
moving to arizona
as if it were a magical place

his desert home
away from the mitchells of the world

and the torments
from the kids on dauntless street

a place where his old man
could finally find work

so when his family
moved back to the dead end
three months later

i made it a point
to never mention the place
to him

just in case it never existed
in the first place.

ray poem (cast)

once upon a time
i wasted a few weeks of summer
in a plaster cast

all of the other kids
on the dead end
forgot about me

except for ray

we spent those weeks
watching the monkees on rerun
playing star trek board games
and drawing cartoons
on loose leaf paper

one day we were
playing with star wars figures
and i told ray
that i was getting my cast off
the next morning

he threw his han solo down
and started crying

it was like telling the kid
that his dog had died.

ray poem (crutches)

in a fit of anger
my brother took
one of my crutches
and swung at my head

when the blood came
and my tears came
ray jumped off of the couch and ran home
before we’d even finished watching
teen wolf

i guess he had enough
domestic violence
for one life.

ray poem (world series)

ray’s old man
took our wiffleball
from off his lawn as usual

only this time
instead of keeping it
he came onto the dead end
and motioned for mitchell
to step to the plate

then he told ray to take the outfield
even though he clearly
did not want to

on a 0-2 count
mitchell smacked one down
the block

and as he circled the bases
high-fiving some other kids

ray walked off  the field
to go back to his star trek board game

his old man singing in his ears
how worthless he truly was.

ray poem (challenger)

i was home
sick from school
the day the challenger exploded

watching CNN
i got to watch it live

ray was over

he claimed to have the day off from school
but i knew better

after we’d had enough of the shuttle
ray said that we should
play with star wars figures

but i told him
that we were too old to do that now

ray sat there slumped and depressed

i wanted to look at baseball cards
and watch gomer pyle reruns
so i asked him to leave

about an hour later the phone started ringing
ring, ring, ring, ring
throughout my house

but i let it go

i knew whom it would be
on the other  end.

ray poem (street fight 2)

even though
ray had started it

throwing sticks at mitchell and i
in the shopping center parking lot

i was made the one to finish it

but only because ray charged me
like a madman

i’ll never forget the fists on flesh
red welts and ray’s tears

the man in the cherry red sports car
trying to break it up by yelling at us
and then driving off to supposedly
get the cops

ray running down the street
and then coming back at me with a tree branch
swinging like willie stargell

until i left him there
on the pavement


….mitchell slapped me five
but to this day
i still wonder what it was all for.

ray poem (baseball cards)

as a peace offering
ray left a stack
of baseball cards
on my front porch

i never even knew
that he’d been collecting them
all this time.

ray poem (umbrella)

after we’d completely
he’d take to walking
up and down
the dead end
talking to himself
and holding an umbrella
whether or not
the day
for rain.

ray poem (the last time)

the last time
that i saw ray
was at the monroeville mall

it had been years
since his family had moved out
of the dead end

and years since anyone had mentioned them

only there he was
in a shirt and tie

his name engraved in a cheap
metal nameplate

working the register
at the tobacco place
where i went and bought my smokes

ray was still rail thin
and his hairline was receding a bit

he asked me if i needed
a pack of matches with my purchase

and i shook my head
























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