Four Poems by Ray Shea

Photo by Megan Stearns

Photo by Megan Stearns

THE SECRET LIFE OF REAL MEN 

 

By day it’s not safe

to leave the truck

even to pee,

unless you have

a sharp lookout

and park away

from the waves

of the tall grass

where predators swim.

 

But late at night when

you answer to no one

you climb the camp fence

and venture alone

into the dark Mara

to take your chances

amongst the stars

and the lions.

 

 

 

LOMA PRIETA

 

He never sleeps through

the tiniest quake since

the big one in ’89.

 

The first pressure wave

tosses him toward the door

before he can even

 

shake loose the dreams,

before the shear waves

shimmy through the roof beams.

 

It’s just like that sound

in the dark child night

ever since he was born

 

when the first slap of meat

burrowed him under his pillow

before the squeal of tooth and bone

brought the weight of home

down around his head.

 

 

 

LIFE ON EARTH

 

Their mother once told me

if you want them to be

the kind of kids

who aren’t fearful

you’re going to have to stop

being so fearful yourself.

 

She said it to cut me,

like she told me

my fat was not sexy

while we were having sex,

I mean she told me

while we were fucking.

 

Until I stopped

being so fearful

long enough to leave her,

taking only the half that was mine,

the last half of my life,

half my kids’ childhood.

Mine.

 

At Six Flags my daughter

asked me to ride

the chair of death

to be dropped from a great height

what she thought was

my greatest fear.

 

I said no

and no

and hell no

and my stomach

knotted

flopped

leaped

until almost closing time

until almost to the gate.

 

I grabbed her hand,

I said let’s go.

One second

of courage

strapped

buckled

yanked

skyward.

 

We paused,

and for that brief still moment

we could see every single thing in the world

sparkling

like a carnival

until the brakes let go

until our bodies were released from our hearts

and hurled against our life on Earth.

 

 

 

PUNK ROCK AND DRUGS

 

I found a vintage bookmark

in an old volume of Bukowski.

Printers Inc. Booksellers in Palo Alto,

which dates this purchase to some time

during the reign of George the First.

 

A long lunch book-shopping, probably.

Waiting out the weekend crank jitters,

avoiding the Silicon Valley cube farm

hiding out between the shelves,

biding my time

until the train back to the city.

 

Sweating out the poison,

the bad breath and crotch rot,

the face-picking, the chewed-up tongue,

the sun too bright,

the pages blurry.

 

I didn’t read poetry. Thought it was stories.

Grabbed it off the Bukowski shelf

without looking inside.

The title was punk fucking cool,

playing the piano

like a percussion instrument

Neubauten-style

until the fingers

begin to bleed a bit

in a Sonic Youth

kind of way.

 

Incapable of imagining

a future beyond quitting-time pints

and next weekend’s gram of crystal.

 

If you had told me I was in for

marriage and children,

dot-com paper millions,

sobriety and suicides,

New Orleans, Katrina,

overdose, divorce,

and writing mid-life crisis poetry

in an Austin train station

with two grown kids

and a black president,

I would have said

I’m not really into science fiction,

mostly just punk rock

and drugs.

 

 

Ray Shea’s writing has appeared in The Rumpus, The Weeklings, Fourteen Hills, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. A native of Boston and New Orleans, he lives and writes in Austin, Texas.

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