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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Memory

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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Cockroach

by Christopher Raley

 

Once, at night, I went to the garage

and turned on the light, flicked and set shadows.

I nudged an old shoe, and a small cockroach

glided across the floor legs aflutter.

 

Now when I go to the garage at night

I scan the wall on the right and quickly

turn away to face the blue tool box

between the filing cabinet and my feet.

 

I kneel and angle the lock which rests

against soft printed tips of my fingers

to see at slant light four metal dials.

They click softly between thumb and pointer.

 

Inside the box I lift the towel like

a burial shroud for bright, sharp steel.

Different sizes of blades glint at the door.

I find a serrated edge.  She is cutting bread.

 

The lid clanks shut, lock clicks sure, dials zip.

I rise and look behind me at the wall.

Piles of unwanted things cast shadows.

I make sure my back is turned when I shut off the light.

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The Witch

by Christopher Raley

 

When Saul was lost

and Samuel spoke

no more to him

he asked the witch

 

to call Samuel

back to his words,

who was not heard

in the first place.

 

What was your song

Witch of Endor?

Was it spoken?

Was it chanted?

 

Was it cruel

or beautiful?

Did Saul hear it

as freedom from

 

fear and constraint?

Or did he hear–

the narrowest

possibility–

 

pleas from someone

younger he’d lost?

 

Behold me now

whose ears will catch

 

the former truths

of older times,

who grasps like gold

others’ orders

 

of notes far flung

or close gathered,

seers, breathers,

names once spoken

 

now forgotten,

prophets aging

and ageless both,

of whom I ask:

 

Are you the witch

or are you David?

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Benicia

by Christopher Raley

 

The sun falls behind the hills, and the wind,

the ubiquitous wind, berates their outline.

In twilight winter gathers its cold dust

and the highway is unforgiving stone.

 

As the dust congeals into night,

red lit traffic slowly reveals

how far behind we are in a race

that has no finish line.

 

I keep thinking, I will turn on music,

but I do not.  Can’t see how it matters.

She still wears sunglasses and slouches

bobbing sleep, and the boys are plugged

into film.  But the beasts I ride among

 

jerk and drift, speed and creep, brake suddenly.

And I remember now, the bridge is near.

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Four Memories

by Christopher Raley

 

i.

It began in the meadow.

Mom and dad lay underneath,

pine tree’s shade against July.

 

I saw beyond this places

I played when younger–we played:

cousins, brother.  I felt the years

 

short in number though they were.

I said, I’m going to explore.

Dad said, Keep your eyes open.

 

Mom quietly chastised him.

I left them, and the meadow,

which had been broad, now was narrow.

 

ii.

To us it was a battle,

protective pine our head quarters.

Brother was the general,

 

Ella was always with him

and Cain and I, the poor troops.

It was a sea invasion

 

but we knew the low channels,

posted watchmen on the creek,

and outflanked their advances.

 

I had not wondered ‘til now:

why dry channels with the lake

so near and the creek so full?

 

I walked their sandy bottoms

barren for summers beyond count

until I found the splintered post,

 

the sagging dock, and, upside down,

the row boat warped, cracked, yearning

a hundred yards from where

 

reeds guarded what the dam made.

 

iii.

Cain was friendly but blind

to who he was and what

he made me be when near him.

 

Cain was jealous around lunch

at brother and Ella

picnicking some unknown shore.

 

He saw their bikes leaning on

the rusting metal gate.

We tracked them and we scared them

 

sitting where the grass hung low

over the bank.  They chased us

with sticks and words so we ran.

 

Cain sulked and said, I can fish

with my bare hands.  I doubted

but said nothing.  We followed

 

the creek to familiar

battlegrounds and he spotted

the outer bank of a bend

 

carved concave by the current

which held trapped a rotting log

still and shining black amid

 

swollen ripples shattering light.

Cain said, This is where they hide.

He moved the log, his right hand

 

ready to strike, but the log

rolled as if its own creature,

and the water thrashed and sprayed,

 

slapped and torn from underneath.

Cain shouted, Whoa big fellah,

and climbed the bank quicker

 

than I thought possible.

It was then I told him

I did not believe his hands

 

were strong enough to hold a fish.

 

iv.

I walked by the dark swirl

of water that always flows.

Brother, Cain, Ella were gone.

 

How we had run, laughed, shouted,

and played, oblivious feet

in tall grass.

 

                 I heard movement

and saw like a panic blink

the narrow body sway slow

 

and thin to an end that

disappears.  Brother was gone.

Behind me the dark swirl

 

guttered and chuckled aloud.

Before me the meadow was

a thousand footfalls misplaced.

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