Splinters of your mind: The poetry of Ricky Ray

By Ricky Ray


Two Postcards to Myself from April 1, 2017

Good morning, sunshine. Not that one opens a lost missive in the morning, and is the good a wish, a curse, or an observation? A cold-fingered hand around a warm mug of coffee, a burnt-sugar soul ground out of Ethiopia. Enough of a pilfer to face the day. Hell of a cold rain last night. Hours without an umbrella, another quarter in the downpour before an empty cab. The chill went to bed with you, slept in the cush of your marrow; now your skin is dry, but your bones, still wet with it, still wet with the ocean they crawled out of, clamor for fire. Give them the splinters of your mind. And a match.

Let them build and come out of your poem, failed, the one that said the clouds hung heavy and low, a blue to them you couldn’t name, something between periwinkle and sky. This is taking two postcards because you’re longwinded. The horses are up and quartering the little muscles in your back. The cats are sleeping with the dog and the dog is running on better knees in her sleep. All those years in the city. Think of the trees you could have had outside your window, the forms of thirst revealed after lifetimes of drinking light. Is thirst ever quenched, or merely shed like old skin? Maybe having one’s fill is beside the point, and one of the virtues of experience is that it belongs to an art of waking up.



Because Meaning Physics Life

I have given up the claims given by mirrors.

Being aware of awareness has become,
like liquor or liking too much, hard to handle,
and when we walk through skins
or kinds of consciousness,
dark fills in our footprints
with the insistence of matter:
a little dirt picked up,
a little skin left behind,
the impression of having been.
Something wants to call it wayward,
then doubts what it wants.

The tongue’s a question-mark
that answers itself in the mouth
because the causeless cures reason,
and dried-apple pies taste
sweetest after too many hours
flattening one’s metatarsals.
A bark becomes a kind of hello
one throws like soft stones:
to see what comes back.

Because love runs us over,
we imagine the uses of roadkill,
a little flatter each thunk,
a talisman, a moon
to carry in one’s pocket
until someone arrives
who carries its other side.

Walks are sketches. The scratch of heel
along a path ten-thousand worn.
No way to paint this. A day and another
and they fail to acknowledge
a difference. If there was one, it stopped
for a drink and stumbled bleary
into blue-eyed dawn,
the slosh of heartbreak in its shoes
healing each hurt step.

Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. His recent work can be found in The American Scholar (blog), Matador Review, Fugue, Lodestone and Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. His awards include the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize and Katexic’s Cormac McCarthy Prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a dog; the bed is frequently overcrowded.

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