As the Coal Cries
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 willed herself to join them;
she slept in the garden, she grew.
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. His recent work can be found in The American Scholar, Matador Review, Concis, One and Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. His awards include the Fortnight Poetry Prize, the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize and Katexic’s Cormac McCarthy Prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a Labradetter; their bed, like any good home of the heart, is frequently overcrowded. rickyray.co/poems