2 Poems by Robin Ray

Ain’t I A Woman?
I sell the shadow to support the substance,
suppressed souls of our kidnapped ancestors
trapped in the galleys of rat-infested ships,
auctioned in markets, whipped in plantations
thousands of miles from home. I stand beside
smelly cattle, both of us up for grabs, no one
seeing the legion of dignities stitched to the
hem of my simple cotton dress. Where to turn
that I can’t be found, these cursed blisters
given time to heal? I close my eyes, wish my
skin was calf leather, but I’d surrender the touch
of a loving, honest man. Should I conspire
against this trade-off? I watch my children float
like embers in the sky, reach for them with
withered hands. Some I snag between forefinger
and thumb. Some I won’t see again. What’s left
to do but nurture, abolish, lead, represent, speak,
pave paths to a better world. My brothers and
sisters will stand with me; we are all roots of the
same stem. I believe this can be done. My name
is Sojourner Truth. Ain’t I a woman?
* “I sell the shadow to support the substance,” is the caption beneath a photo of Sojourner Truth from 1870.
Again With This ‘New Day’ Business
Toll house enclave, opulent homes, a street where
mummies live, mommies silently die choking on
eclairs meant for royalty, sporting boots in need
of shine. Languor settles like dust. Josephine, her
passé husband roughing it corporate-style, eyes
new thrills from greasy tire mechanics and
back-braced stock boys with ten-syllable surnames.
SUV fails to excite like it used to. Pinball arcade
across town suffices, interrupts tea parties, café
excursions at noon, boutique mall engagements.
An accelerant to the tedium sounds about right. She
used to harbor disdain for the dawn, now downright
despises roosters, whippoorwills, winds whipping
cacophony through cinquefoil shrubs and linden
treetops. Even the freshly-brewed cappuccino tastes
like arsenic which, in all reality, she hopes it is.
Robin Ray is the author of Wetland and Other Stories (All Things That Matter Press, 2013), Obey the Darkness: Horror Stories, the novels Murder in Rock & Roll Heaven and Commoner the Vagabond, and one book of non-fiction, You Can’t Sleep Here: A Clown’s Guide to Surviving Homelessness. His works have appeared, or is appearing, in Red Fez, Jerry Jazz Musician, Underwood Press, Scarlet Leaf Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, Spark, Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Picaroon Poetry, The Bangalore Review, The Magnolia Review, Vita Brevis, and elsewhere. http://seattlewordsmith.wordpress.com/

Regarding the Shelves by David P. Kozinski


Regarding the Shelves
There are folded letters on air mail paper, slighter
than skin, and lists
tucked in as place marks – ice melt, oil, lighter fluid.
I can only take in so much dust and sit back
to decipher what you scrawled,  Suzanne,
about the hard life of a carver of stone
and what Chris put down
about letting rejection fall away like dead leaves.
Then there is what you noted, Patti, to stand me up
in 1993, and again in ’94
as the decade that started with a noose around its neck
became a countdown to a strange and hoped-for frontier.
Oh brother, Chris, the Protestant ethic
chafed me like tweed, clashed
with your dark secret and my own
we held tight to as boys. Yours turned out bigger
and badder than mine – only to see itself whittled down
slowly, and gradually faster, collapsing
finally from the gravity of hate.
Far too often returns the image of caged wolves
pacing frantically in the late afternoon, Philadelphia July heat,
but mother wanted us to see everything a zoo was about;
and too often, the memory of my impatience
with my brother’s phone calls, placed
between one and two a.m.
the way I demanded
and how even with that I sometimes
didn’t pick up, let him ramble until the machine timed out;
then, the hush of hospital corridors and stairwells
when, hung-over and hypoglycemic, I couldn’t find
a doctor to stall the march of pestilence
in my mother’s brain.
All this from old messages
pressed between poems
I still admire, even as so many of their authors
die or retire, lose their edge or just their will.
All this as the sculptor chisels free the core
trapped in the slab, while sparks of marble 
ignite the surrounding cloud of dust,
leaving me waiting
to see what grainy god emerges,
what monster begins to uncoil.
DPK Headshot
David P. Kozinski’s first full-length book of poems, Tripping Over Memorial Day  (Kelsay Books) came out in January. He won the Delaware Literary Connection’s 2015 spring poetry contest and the Seventh Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, which included publication of his chapbook, Loopholes (The Broadkill Press). Publications include Apiary, Cheat River Review, Fox Chase Review, Philadelphia StoriesSchuylkill Valley Journal & Rasputin.