by Christopher Raley


As though submerged, I saw.  And it floated

above me, a black cross unsure of its

vertical axis.


Later, uban light through dirty windows,

it roars over highway like an omen,

then is silent as quickly as it came.


What do we say?  Budgets, numbers, figures

as though office walls are framed by digits,

and faith rapps sheetrock listening for the stud.


Nevermind my childhood just rattled

the glass and shook the desk.  My childhood:

winter after winter of drought.  High clouds


wisp on blue seedling dreams of leaving.

Afternoon: by the time I heard the roar

it was already climbing back to gone.


Office walls and digits cling to firm ground,

but I yearn in the rising

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aging woman crosses the street

by Christopher Raley


It startled me. I can tell you that much.

Quiet street ends at busy one–four lanes.

I turn right onto it. Van at left

turns right off of it.

Like the audience of a badly timed stunt,

we stop and we stare though desperately

we want to move.


Bright green eye-shadow, demonstrative and fake

lashes, lips the color of someone’s wound,

(but a wound from which he long ago died),

these are paints of mockery on a face

age has entrenched for the last ugly battle

with overpaid confidence in beauty.


What appears hesitation is in fact

equilibrium fighting for balance

with the sway of stiff hips and

swing of black leather purse.

What little of her I see behind her mask

is the duck taped smile of someone’s

school girl fling played over

and over and over in decades’ sprawl

of seeking and finding attention.


I laugh . . . as she passes before my truck

and then before his van.  But laughter dies

when I see him watching her.

He is revolted the way users

look, rate, and are revolted.


I attend again the four lanes before me.

For once all the little rats in the race

serve me well.  I turn into their fear,

merge with their anxiety,

and I hide my shame between bumpers.

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Monday Morning

by Christopher Raley


I wanted to leave when Monday morning

dawned like a white sheet whipped high and held tight

to a slow billowing fall.


I wanted to put my mind to road

while building, pavement, and grass

were shining clean after storm.


I wanted to follow the highway north

dwindle with the stores, count numbered days

like the orchards, and cut close the bend where

two lanes call the race across hardpan plain

with no obstructed view to mountain walls

that funnel to the narrow climb through

blue-backed peaks heavy and white.


I wanted to leave.  But I stayed.

The sky turned fitful, moody, and gray.

I wondered, in dull glances out of

single pane windows: even with just one

tank of gas, could I have cleared

the other side of the pass?

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A Painting of Geese

by Christopher Raley



Are they landing

or heaving wings

to beak-point sky?


Or do they make

for the bare tree?

If geese like trees

. . . I guess they’re geese.



It’s all angles,

dark angles and

white-met angles

eased by water.


Shore eased by blue,

geese hard in wing.

Tree’s a tangle.



Perspective is

difficult here

from their long necks

over grey sky


to the far brown



line of . . . well, what?


Bushes or trees?

I will never

be able to

tell which they are.


I suppose it

doesn’t matter.

There’s no snow here

in the valley.



I can’t decide

what to tell you

because I don’t know

what you can hear.


Stay or go, stand

or run. Leave. Hide.

Or seek your raw,

cut-open skin

cut open again.


What can I say?

I, who have said,

keep going back,

as if I knew.



Of course I know.

I know like one

who grasps the wind

and says: Here!  Look!


I am holding the


But I can’t hold the





wind is only

felt tangibly.


Instinct charts you

which way it turns,

and wind calls you

which way it blows.


The wind calls you.



What can I say?

The tree’s real.

The shore’s real.

The water.


But I address you

like to the geese

who will not hear

what I have said,


will not answer

what I have asked.

So I will not

ask anymore.


Now I confess:

the geese.  I still

can’t tell if they

rise or fall.


I am surprised

you decided

to hang them up

on our wall.

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Farmer’s Pose

by Christopher Raley


It’s the farmer’s pose, the self-enclosed hug

of the self-contained man.  Hands grasp elbows

eyes look to earth and lips roll over a purse.

I look instinctively for the grass stem.


He wears the stance well, not as practice

but as performance.  One hand reaches round

and hooks jeans’ back pocket while the other

clutches something metal to brace against.


I don’t doubt there are men still who can read

earth and sky, river, tree, and horizon,

nor that he might yet be such a man

should cloud cast shadow over his furrows.


But if it did he would think of color not light

and laugh into the collar of his flannel.

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by Christopher Raley


Wind drives brittle leaves against the house

like tiny skittering creatures

clawing a way out of night and storm.


Her hands spasm on the comforter,

stunned birds struggling to gain flight.

She mutters incomprehensible things

and the wind objects with a prolonged speech.


At last her tongue cleaves to the roof

and she snarls herself to argument.

But the wind is full of outrage


and the frightened creatures are frantic

for me to let them in.

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by Christopher Raley


Last night memory called me awake.

3:30 am like broad daylight.


In the livingroom rain crackled

against the south facing window.

I watched it streaking globe-like kingdoms


of streetlight’s twin boundaries in air

and sidewalk.  Identically

yellow and shining and empty.


I was born into a drought

and have never forgotten rain’s

first claim of wonder on my eyes.


Now I tell all things in two states:

one is dry, featureless, brown,

and the other chained yet wild,


fanciful and falling.

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James Bond

by Christopher Raley


The best part of every James Bond film

is the beginning.  It’s always bliss

running and shooting without any answers.

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Live to the Rhythm

by Christopher Raley


I could live to the rhythm

of waking to cold mornings,

of darkness under the pines

and warm under the blankets.


I could live to the rhythm

of closing windows at nine,

of cleaning up breakfast’s mess

while lunch is on the stove.


I could live to the rhythm

of ceiling fans circling,

of afternoons spent hiding

from bright spots of light and heat.


I could live to the rhythm

of my sons’ furrowed thoughts

unknown in long silences

and their sudden bursts of talking.


Night comes.  And when they are still,

she has not returned to me.

I turn off the fans and listen.

Far off a dog’s bark


is like sound deep in water.

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by Christopher Raley


It’s like secretly watching

some half-known couple framed in

their apartment window.


I peer in.  They move around

the kitchen, carry food to

the living room, talk over TV.


Sometimes I catch a word or two,

but those rarely surprise me.

I’ve done all this before.


I don’t know how I came to be

out here in the dark watching.

What heart beat moves me these days?


They go to bed now, laughing

but still a little shy as though

something has yet to appear.


I’ve done all this before.

Only once, but I’ve done it all.

Now it seems misunderstood,


blurry, and mute like . . .

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