A woman sings, when I was born,
I stepped through the veil. Her mother
and father are myths she’s still making.
His dark skin, whether sun or melanin,
darkens as his Harley thunders
down the highway, sweat in his beard,
a single point in his mind where
she could curl up and fall asleep.
Her mother has scars on her back
from where they removed the wings.
No angel, she studied the butterflies
and joined them; was caught the day
she picked up her legs and flew.
The woman’s friends trust her with secrets.
She puts them where she came from:
she cannot reveal what she never knew.
When she waves goodbye with the light
behind her, her friends mistake her hands
for birds. They are, but she holds them in.
She’s afraid of giving birth. As a child,
she couldn’t find herself in the color wheel,
so she turned to soil, and in the sundown silt
where her legs became flippers in the delta,
she found her hue. She asked it why?
It said something she couldn’t hear.
In her dreams, the words are coming
clear as the coal cries in the mountain,
mixing men with rock as the tunnel
folds, the pressures of life
forcing us to bear diamonds.
They will be taken in blood.
She tells the birds in her to build
their nests over the shiny parts.
Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. He is the author of Fealty (Eyewear, 2018) and the founding editor of Rascal: a Journal of Ecology, Literature and Art. His recent work can be found in The American Scholar, The Matador Review, Amaryllis, Scintilla and One. His awards include the Cormac McCarthy Prize, the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize, the Fortnight Poetry Prize, and a Whisper River Poetry Prize. He lives in Harlem with his wife, three cats and a Labradetter. Their bed, like any good home of the heart, is frequently overcrowded. Visit rickyray.co and rascaljournal.com for more.
Ricky’s latest book, Fealty, can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Fealty-Ricky-Ray/dp/191247722X
Please also consider checking out a wonderful cause that Ricky is passionate about: https://www.wildbirdfund.org/ Their mission is to provide medical care and rehabilitation to native and passing migrant wildlife so that they can be released back into the wild. And to educate New Yorkers about the rich diversity of the city’s wildlife and how to help it thrive.