After Tagore

~When

~When is David Ray’s twenty-first book. Gathered here are poems that express concern for the earth and humanity; poems that explore connections through biography; and poems that haunt with grief and love.

(Howling Dog Press/Omega Editions 2007)


Excerpts from review of When in
Tucson Weekly, 2/28/08:

Inevitable Grace

"...Ray's new book, When, showcases a poet at his peak. On a purely technical level, Ray is formidable, moving from haiku to sestina to lengthy free-verse single stanzas without ever abandoning his conversational, "common-man" style....Ray simply chooses a form that suits the subject matter, as he does in the lovely, incandescent couplets of "Brooms," with couplets being a form often identified with romantic Chilean bard Pablo Neruda. Ray's couplets, however, constitute a heartbreaking elegy to a deceased son, Sam. It's a poem that shatters me every time I read it....

There is an overtly aggressive side to Ray, too, especially with his political verse, which pulls no punches. "The Great Leaders," for instance, is steeped in righteous anger, each stanza cutting like a samurai sword through our dull sensibilities and low expectations..."

— Jarret Keene


What They Are Watching

          Trinity Site, New Mexico, 5:30 A.M., July 16, 1945

That they should sit on long rows of benches,
That they should consider the desert
as a worthy place for the beholding,
That they should sit with hands joined
in their laps, as if in meditation,
That they should make no outcry,
That they should wear ordinary clothing,
nothing thicker than an old drab overcoat,
That they should wear only tennis shoes
or oxfords over the bones of their feet,
That they should allow the dark goggles
to be placed over their eyes,
That they should sit as quiet as death
while the great light flashes through them,
That they should bear the burden
of knowledge, and the lack of it,
That they should sit, patient and expectant,
That they should cross legs, swinging their feet,
That mountains should sit unmoved in judgement,
That men and women should hold their hands
to their goggles as if looking through
binoculars or at the sun, which has never
expressed a need for a sibling on earth,
That they should think this is the ultimate
good, worth the sacrifice of every creature,
That they should catch death like a flung ball,
And that they did not flee screaming,
                                    is the great mystery.



Moment By the Pool

World by the pumice stone, cold pool
near the Shinto temple, smell
of honeysuckle strong and our orchid
leis dangling, over the rail
we regard our karma
of this life, the carp
both orange and black
and even one old white guru fish
who is so wise
he does not dream
of everything at once.
The pool shivers in moonlight
and we have let down so many burdens
that we float
as free as these carp,
at least tonight,
at least this holy instant.



Contents of this website © David Ray 2011