(Poem) Forget

What ordered the fear
Compelled to obey
Under your watch?
Who took the reigns
When you turned help away
Held your own face?

Hey, he said
Remember? 

It’s like you don’t know
How you got here
Eight years later
A dream you woke in
Moving forward
But you don’t know where to

Remember? 

He looked at you and you smiled
Maybe it’s time to take a cue
From the uplifting lyrics
Playing in your heavy mind
Who’s to say there’s not
Another inception?
Maybe it’s time to wake up

Hey, remember? 

The sea breeze takes your hair back
Your hands pulled off your face
He was gentle and strong
Like you could ever forget

What? you asked

But you always knew
What he’d say
You just wanted to hear it

Remember

His words permeating your skin

You’re my girl 

Exhale.
And what if I can’t?

He grinned. Then you’ll try again 

How do you know?

Because you’re my girl 
And you, darling, 
Can do anything.  

(Featured) Through the Veil

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.

(Poem) The Gift

To be an elder, sometimes
We look at their form and their wrinkles
Or their gait and their circular words
And wonder
How can we help elders?
But rarely do we see them
As a gift

A woman that I’ve come to see
Oftentimes she sits quietly
Observing, not initiating,
But one day she was outspoken
Her beautiful rings, bold and loud
On her tiny hands
She showed me, proud
Unable to name where they came
But they made her happy
The little things

Aw, I don’t have any rings, I said
And she looked at me seriously
You should, she said
Have your mother or father buy you one!
It was important, somehow
With her words so few
I wasn’t sure what she had meant
And I had laughed at the sentiment
But I took something from it
“See you tomorrow!” she said
For the first time

Over the weekend
I wandered into a knick knack shop
I came across a beautiful ring
And her message came to mind
Not bought by my mother or father
But by myself
My ring was empowering
I look at it sometimes
Such a little thing
Such an important thing

And now I think
How do elders help us?

(Poem) Collab

What defines our bounds and rules?
And who defines our domains?
Throw our hands and act like fools–
Or drag the chains that remain?
Show them all the careless dance,
And bring them to unchallenged grace.
Make it all more than happenstance;
Embrace the resonance of this place.

What defines our dreams and desires?
And who defines our path?
If only we could grasph the fires
Without the burn of flames’ sure wrath.
Display your wings as if you could fly
But on the way down, you better be sure
Take in the laughing, happy people walking by
All the things you wish you were.

What if we define our limits?
What if our hands are our chains?
Is it the mirrored face that inhibits?
Think these thoughts in the moments that remain.
Tell of the life without inhibitions,
And the person you had been before
Let go of the ghosts that make your decisions
So you can be someone even more.

The whispers of the past enrapt
And you feel sickly at ease
But all you end up, is trapped
With the empty unwarmth of a melancholy breeze.

(Prompt) I learned–didn’t I?

The Time Is Now (from the awesome website Poets and Writers, https://www.pw.org ) offers free prompts every Tuesday, to help get your creative juices flowing or to challenge you to try something different.  So, every Tuesday we will be using their prompts to experiment and expand and have a little fun!  Feel free to join us every Tuesday, we’ll be doing the previous week’s prompt to let everyone have a chance to write something.  Leave a comment with your poem and you may be featured!  Remember to like and subscribe for more poetry prompts!

Prompt from 7/17:  Wholesome.

Think of something in your life that has been either physically or figuratively broken, fragmented, or made distant, and write a poem that attempts to restore its wholeness. How might you use the ideas of rejoining parts, searching for new openings, or creating connections for empathy, to write a poem that begins to make what is broken whole?

Not sure how
Somehow in my academic folly
A cursor became scary
And I thought myself a fraud.

Who is this trespasser
With her books and statistics
Are they looking down at me
Or am I supposed to step up.

They told me to break the wall
That they put in front of me
If it wasn’t hard, everyone
Would do it, right?

Not sure if I made the best choice
But here I am halfway up
And with every word I write
A brick falls down.

Surreptitiously, I rebel
Against the mantra
“All you are is this”
To keep my sanity,, heal my hurt.

I learned
I am not perfect
I am not the smartest in the room
That no reinforcements were coming.

I learned
I am my own enemy
I am capable
That it’s one step at a time.

Armed with the truth
The scientist is king
Armed with my truth
I can push forward.

Knocking down
Building up
One day the data will make sense
One day it will be significant.

Next week’s prompt:  Love Scientifically

(Poem) Broken Steps

Sorry I never told you
The words in my heart
All I wanted to say
Was strewn across years
I tried to pick them all up
To give them to you
But it was too late
They fell from my tiny hands

I thought there was time
I saw empty roads ahead
Turns out they’d be, indeed,
empty
To be traveled alone
And it was in those lonely days
I picked up those words
I held onto them

I thought you’d still need them
Wherever you were
But what use are unspoken words
Thrown backwards forming
A trail of silence

All these years I thought
Maybe if you heard them
You’d reappear in my dreams
Tell me something I needed
And in that moment I’d be different

But now, I think those words
Were not love sonnets
Or important declarations
Instead
They were waiting to be wisdom
So I could live a better life
Without you

The problem is
The passage of time
Has wasted away the lines
And I cannot remember
What I had wanted to say

I guess I just miss
Who I had been
When I was with you

(Poem) Acknowledgment

We don’t hate you.
We don’t blame you.
In fact, we’ve probably
Known each other for a long time.

But I have to say it
With love in my heart
And fire in my veins:
You are acting out your privilege.

We know you’re full of respect
And openness
We are some of your friends, you say
Or family
Or coworkers
You don’t look down at us
–Intentionally

But when you’d rather not be
Uncomfortable
About what we say
Seen, felt, lost, heard
When you say
“But not all…”
“But I’m not…”
“Oh but some of the protestors…”
You’re acting out your privilege.

We know there are bad apples in every tree
Including ours
We know there are good ones too
We know some people shout
And others speak calmly
But can you blame us
When nobody is listening?

So let me ask you:
Are your minutes of
Uncomfortableness
More important
Than our fears of discrimination
Policies
Representation
Deportation
Or worse–death?

You can shake it off
Go back to blending into the majority
That you will always be a part of
No matter where you are in this world.
Sadly we cannot do the same.

We know you have had it hard
We know we are blessed too
In many ways.

We are simply pleading for
Acknowledgment
Reflection
About why your name may have better standing
And not mine
Why our features matter so much
Yet so little next to yours
Why we’re more likely to get trapped
In cycles of poverty
And everything it’s tied to
Why speaking up is spoken out against.

We just want you to think
About the privilege you benefit from
Right now
Whether tangible or not.

And if you say “But why me?”

It’s becausw we’ve already acknowledged
Our place, our privilege, our shortcomings.
We had to.
We’ve had plenty of time to reflect in our skin.
Now it’s your turn.

Because if you don’t
Acknowledge your privilege
You don’t acknowledge us.

And we’ll be acting out
The same drama in perpetuity.
Prompts: privilege.  What would you write given the same prompt?  Leave a comment or Contact Us to submit your work–you may be featured!