These two poems by Robin Ray explore spiritual, if not literal, homelessness—that feeling of being untethered to a sense place or even a consistent story of self—as the defining experience of our time: “I haven’t/ secured a home in my wandering,/ not one place to rest my depression.”
by: Robin Ray
Invisible Slab of Town
autumn’s impenetrable fog casualties invisible
in the chowder-like mist my accomplice waits
bayonet in hand nerves steeled for the outcome
what did steely dan mean when they sang
this is the day of the expanding man?
a grotesque explosion too x-rated to consider?
this endless warring with sanity breaks me
like a sculptor whose eyes turned against him
in some slabs of this town a lie gets you killed
don’t ramble there without a horse that’s lost
its nose for danger the cabbie will swerve
around you bleeding your soul out on the street
zombies scavenge your pockets funds for a fix
they fibbed by saying this city reeks of grease
it’s wretchedness we smell unstaged, vulgar.
punitive encounters evidenced by
trailing semaphores to pennants
of sea-voyaging countries
blossoming on the shore
five-petal orchid immortalized
on hong kong’s flag
in a field of blood
moths, cloth empowered, flaunt, bit by bit
their bitter taste
to the overlords
i am still, resplendent, the pink-headed
duck you’ll never see past defending
refusing to date anyone anymore
hokkaido calls me hikikomori
drowning in bowls of nanakusa-gayu
once upon a moon
light swallowed the backstreets
reddened by the flames of whores
my shuttered window blocks them
five stories below i hear scrapes
like tranquilized bears waking in the alley
there goes me
there always goes me.
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 Heaven and 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.
You have to go there to understand something like these poems. They’re dark. We experience the full extent of life through its contrasts. What’s dark? What’s light? Where’s the borderline where they bleed into each other? Here? Maybe.You can’t convince me that these poems were written by a corpse. They’re too strong. If Robin is wrestling with his skeleton, I hope he holds his own. We need poets. We don’t need their poems but we need poets, badly. Robin is a poet. Stay alive, friend.
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