Poetry: "Beheaded By Fence Line"

by Christopher Raley i Their faces beheaded by fence line grotesque laughter, contort a bent double to disappear them then release them back to exposure’s buzzing yellow of dirty night.

She sits in watch of small frames detailing mimicry without and marks them a record in tickling her cynicism.

I stand in kitchen slider view of them bray back shaved scalps and strangle long necks for a tip-up glint of darkness.

Quiet rests her pleasure she forces no perspective, but flattens lines of emotion in comforting remove,

so let the bombard next door without a verb. Endless is the violence, and delight is without end.

ii I pull the drawers for snack and pill as lamp clicks off and her in bed. I check the locks against a thud and turn out light until the dark.

Her warmth is oblivion next to me, and blanket pulled up too cold to be but fear cutting a line at the base of my neck.

For her I am a child. I receive the blind worry of what may be evil with eyes open in darkness.

Poetry: "Men"

by Christopher Raley They gather to build the fire, men of older dreams, men of dead dreams. Talk is out of mouths that hear to a world unseen, and fingers feel with knowing eyes use of axe and wood. Laughter comes just before the joke is punched.

Around them forest stretches and holds scared and quiet creature’s frozen eyes, through gnarled manzanita and drooping hands of pine hidden beholding heavy steps and strange, jagged rhythms of voice.

Beyond them forest stretches over patient deaths of fallen trunks sprouting rising falls. And peace is as many moments of silence until fear of alien perseverance drives out to word.

So at last I left the moment’s sanctuary to cross the dusty road where evening yet lingered and their voices were soundings in deep water.

In the trees again I hurry to the call of men around the fire, men of older dreams, men of dead dreams, a circle of wrinkled palms yearning toward the flame.

Poetry: "Oaks"

by Christopher Raley Hills that were California brown and held rich in folds of laden heat and gave a scrub oak’s worth of shade against sun and dust;

hills that were fire black and held rich on islands in devastated calm, having given oaks to bare the brunt and wilt yellow who were too close to flame

are hills that are newly grown, regenerate who owes to no man scars of her rebirth— how she labored under God’s slow contract and pushed up nutrient earth around those preserved on malnourished soil.

So oaks are umbrellaed dots on hillsides, amber as a row of open graves. Theirs is not decided what may yet be life or death.

Poetry: "The Moon Is a Dirty Yellow Basket"

by Christopher Raley The moon is a dirty yellow basket low on the edge of night’s walk where two wanderers carry it to sky or fall in with its horizontal suicide.

What evil is it craves this for a sign? Futures shift in swing of possible like a world of shadow in arc of a lamp. And the moon is born aloft by the wanderers.

Futures swing from one to the other. Evil fears death of longing which curses dark for absence of blessing. And the moon looks about to catch the wanderers.

What blessing is it grits its teeth when the lamp sets alight a thousand paths to one hated direction?

Poetry: Man Who Smokes

by Christopher Raley The man who smokes holds his thoughts with finger tips and rolls them like the rosary beads of morning. Every slip of action, every fault of line is a meditation for the great strength of always future.

Last week burdens clutter spaces of now like little shards of broken glass landscape the road. The man takes them in, one by one, slow fingers at his lips, and draws thoughts upon the debts at his feet.

Last week clouds clear blue and dying green to shine brighter a contrast that will grey and brown hills for summer. The road that climbs between the market and the church, the dark-trunked olive trees that shade the blinkless goat chewing— life is a frame for staring while time taps ashes to pavement.

Sometimes a car crosses the fault-line of past to horizon, and the man who smokes purses his lips and points his squint toward freedom.

Poetry: "Before the Fire-Scarred Land"

by Christopher Raley Oracle speaks in the living room while wind beats huddled houses with her fury. Thelonious: Again now tell us of peace you find in misery’s laughter, humiliation’s pride.

But can you speak beauty as bare-skin light of dawn unveils valley parchment its smear of sight? Or is yours only for laughter at the south road shining its golden rush between winter fields brown and fallow?

The river has a mischief too, its course slowly to bend and upset orchards carefully squared. Far hills like wrinkled canvass spread their jest below blue silk torn of edge and splotched by the white hand.

Are there any here you can voice through the urban angles of your ironic malice? The oracle has no need but a faint breath of harmony. For he too will rise east—and the fire-scarred land

where pines stretch charred bones for no song or shade, and manzanita are the frozen black frenzy of muttering old women who’ve only themselves left to hate.

Poetry: "It's Hard To Resist Him"

by Christopher Raley It’s hard to resist him in the tiled shower where water beats closing crease of mouth (and storm beats doors of the house) and etchings are hieroglyph of memory.

It’s hard to ignore his empty desk and absent tools of pastime tagged and marked, or his laugh at the table, a deaf old man who echoes off tiles and shuttered windows.

Or it’s his bitterness growling in rain gutters while the headlands all are dark like primitive man, and wind beats gloomed houses and square, and rain is a bestial hand risen from the ocean.

Tomorrow we will see his ghost in the forest where we walk and keep an eye on the water for a shadow of storm.

Poetry Is Back: "Welcome to Darkness, Michael"

by Christopher Raley Dizzy is the road at night in hit of wind and red tail lights trailing gone around the bend where sudden are come head lights of blind, and front-end bears down hard on the curve.

Michael says he hates night and squint anxiety. He can't abide the rain-drop smear and ugly grimace of wiper blade's swipe too soon on the pane. Muscle tension searches dark for signs spawning exit.

I told him: Once we rose above the valley floor and flew where hills step to mountains who graduate angles of mystery neither height nor depth over comes.

I looked upon the glimpses of that fickle road, sometimes north, sometimes south, and saw the hope of miles. Welcome to darkness, Michael. You're only ever going west.