New Work by David Ray


"The person perceives the relationship, but there is no known physical cause for it. Magic is inferred when meaning is found."
Claude Levi-Strauss

I open the book at random and ask,
"What am I meant to see here?"

And the same question can be asked
of the streets and the faces,

the malls and the mountains.
There are those who think such

a quest is absurd, and yet if
they should look back, would they

not see it was all meant to be --
right up to the lip of hell, and also

when poised at the brink of heaven.

("Randomness" appears in Re-Markings (India), 2004)


The new owners call them
virgin--their four acres

of desert--soon deflowered
by bulldozers, jackhammers

and posts driven in.  A rattle
snake wanders in, not aware

he has been evicted
after a few million years.

Though he has no brows
I would swear he reared up

and raised them--a snake
afflicted with perplexity.

What has become here
of home? A call is put in

for the exterminator,
who has already dealt

with the cougar, coyote,
mountain lion, javelina

and quail.  The wife dreams
of herself as Eve

in a garden, a snake
crawling near, wrapping

around her.  His face
bears a resembance to Satan.

She wakes her husband
                           to tell him.

("Four Acres" appears in The Anthology of New England Writers 2004 as an Editor's Choice.)


The poets offer advice, and Oh,
how I need to take it.

Sor Juana: eagles must not
allow themselves

to be distracted. Eluard: It is time
to stop talking to rubble.

Gandhi--I'll dub him a poet: Keep
your eye on the activity,

not the goal, which I guess is what
Thoreau had in mind

when he wrote that the laborer must be
recompensed by his labor,

not by his employer. Best to forget goals--
are they not for basketball

players? When did this madness first
infect us, craving results?

Could it have been when the teacher
began dispensing grades

and her frowns and smiles with them?
Poor Keats, with his lust

for his books in a row, spines stamped
in gold. Poor little Emilie,

abused by Higginson. Poor little Sylvia,
vowing she'd be happy if

she could just get one poem in The Atlantic.
 Poor little me, vowing to get on

with the work, when naysayers command
the mails and sonic booms

shake the yard, reminding us who owns the sky,
sadly not my fossilized trilobite.

( "Distraction" appears in Prairie Schooner,
Spring 2003


That first water drop
that started to carve the Grand
Canyon – Where would we

find it today?  Has
it calmed down, or is it still
having its way with

the rocks, probing yet
deeper, seeking a center?
Where, tell me, is that

little drop that was
once to the earth what the Big
Bang is to the cosmos?

Has it settled down –
taken up meditation,
or sated the thirst

of a green gecko,
or inspired a poem by
the ghost of Issa?

(Published in New Letters, Vol.77 No.1)


Drinking days long gone,
the old man collects empties –
green bottles, beer tombs.

Syllabic nonsense
or rare satori captured –
his lonesome haiku.

Swinging a lantern
along the rusty boxcars –
the young Jack Kerouac.

What a great idea –
a cup of tea, suggests Jack
Kerouac’s old haiku.

Headed to Tibet –
but he turned back halfway up
the sacred mountain.

One minute’s enough
if it’s true bliss – no big word
needed to name it.

Afflicted with words
he sought the balm of silence.
Sought, yet did not find.

How quickly a year,
quickly a day, yet savor
the moment, he said.

(Published in Minotaur, No. 61)


Such intimacy – the horny rooster
       named Albert,
direct descendent of the Fabergé
       rooster I saw in the museum,
watches after his two co-
       wives, Henny and Marigold,
and in this four-acre world
        they peck away all day
and are back in their shed
        by dusk, cuddled together
on a corner shelf above a carpet
    of dried mottled droppings. 
I tuck them in for their night
    of pure innocent bliss, taking
two eggs as pay for my servitude.


Have you thought much
about boomerangs lately –

how you throw them out,
how they return,

sometimes with surprising
mutations, transmogrifications,

e.g., bombs that come back
as prolific as dragon’s teeth

though you recall flinging out
just one into the sky, watching

it disappear in the distance?
More often than not, they say

of love, you get back more
than you gave and bargained

for – a rule that holds true
for boomerangs and bombs. 

Who ever succeeded in throwing
out a boomerang called war

and getting hit over the head
by a blessing called peace?

(from The Death of Sardanapalus
and Other Poems of the Iraq Wars
Howling Dog Press, 2004)