CHRISTOPHER RALEY

 

Smoke casts over sky
burning cities of the north,
and moon rises red.

Charles whips the fly,
and I look on
as it sings and drops on still water.

It must have been so
ages ago, with elder fathers, their sons.
I admire and fear his future

while grey twilight hides
fire in the mountains.
I strain on ancient words as if

former victims of bygone holocausts
still offer prayers to inform
response to what we here call suffering.

Can I take from them
and endure their calm rebuke?

Charles strips the line.
Unseen fly makes dark ripples
on dark water. Epicenter trembles.

I’ve felt it before,
words in a line telling me
to go where I do not want to go.

The fish erupts, then
plunges ‘neath quivering pole
to murky depths I know so well.

Better I should breathe
muted perspective
than I should struggle for air.

I’ve felt it before,
words in a line telling me:
let the plane of water break down your face.

Body writhes. Mouth gapes.
I am slick with bitterness,
black eyes bulging.

Death praises me.
Black eyes bulging, they find
the fisherman intent as he pulls the hook,

his smile caught
between mirrored images:
moon and moon, hand and hand, sky and water.

Born from the frail edge of reflection
I return to myself.
I have felt the grip that can kill,

but did not.
Charles casts again,
and I see his dissatisfaction

curl like a whip to snap a perfect welt.
I am helpless.

I am a shadow fleeing.

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