20 | Birthright | Time Elastic | Province


When our babies are born, we run them with dry names
till their personalities explode, color the walls with

vibrant hues or leave them ashen, dull. Holding still,
we watch them while we grow into shadows of illusion,

hole-punched watercraft listing like winos in the sun.
[The light is painful; finial burns.] We’re moved by the

everlasting songs of Sanskrit resolutions, even harbor
stony secrets of indulgent defiance, bold maneuvers.

I witnessed a sixpenny owl in transit amidst a mass
influx of alliances. Welcome to March. How did it go?

I hid in a chamber well-known for its plié of fools,
pas de deux of bribable nonsense. As a lark, I snuck a

lioness in a mason jar for lack of protein. [I can’t breathe
in an office where death decays one atom at a time.]

When I removed my clothes, I was still a man in black,
a hunter of aliens, or perhaps an alien myself.

Laudanum granted me syphilis in just one teaspoon.
It was as bitter as rejection but certainly did the trick.

Time Elastic

Sunday afternoon. Six ornery pigs, buttocks shiny
like marinated faces, loaded in the rickety wagon.

Missy scowled. Neglected to charge her cell phone.
Promised herself this: miss a call from Lover Boy,

fast for a week, maybe two, any amount to forget
his shadow. Younger brother Two-Ton Mathis huffed

getting into the pickup, turkey jerky in hand thwarting
his attempt. Papa Randall shook his head, kick

started the old clunker, prepared to drive off to Blue
Acre Farm, Missy at his side. There would be useless

bartering, haggling, activities he despised as much as
watching his supply of Paulaner Alkoholfrei run dry.

His wife, Natalie, the kids’ mother, stood on the porch
watching. Head full of moments, did well for comfort.

Celebrated loneliness’ death 17 years ago when she’d
met Randall in rehab mere inches from skid row after a

four-year gig at The Love Shack of Arrendale in Georgia.
No questions remain. Time healed, did its job, beautifully.


Hickory stick boulevard, lovers strolling
two feet apart, voiceless. Tumbling weeds

of catastrophe in the nettle wort. Apache
fires scourge the arboretum, an artillery of

sassafras twigs fooling light to stone. Our
lake is a still of chocolate. The millstream,

flowing through it, knows its place but
ignores the bends. Slings of botched cider

in the marketplace, bellies full of rage,
gryphons mellowing from the incense.

A guilty bystander is buried in dew; all we
see are soughs blending in the fibers of the

wind. The gray sky mirrors its witness. A
culture of infancy erupts all over. In the dark,

the oily, rain-soaked street becomes a litmus
paper of crime. Home is a charred tongue,

a fornication of abandoned will. We sink in
the pismire, drown. Life, a provincial dream.

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 are 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.