Ricky Ray



A Neighborhood of Vertebrae

This sky is a sunny place unless you’re somewhere else, a cloudy place if your face is chattering in the rain. I like to think it would be as easy as saying “I’ve had enough pain, leave my body,” and it would pick up and go. It would gather its belongings and take care to leave nothing, not even a breath drawn tightly through the teeth, behind.

It’s almost beyond imagining, but to bridge memory to the present, ask. What would it be like to feel comfort again, to wake up and actually feel pleasure in the muscles standing, to enjoy the stretch as the hands bring water and wash the face of sleep?

Resist the temptation to answer the question with another question or a solution that dulls the inquiry. There is reward around here somewhere if the tension is followed past the point of a logical conclusion, followed to the source of the problem, even if the problem is a widespread something not right, unclear, probably genetics, or environment, the untold difficulty of living in this body in this world, a dysfunction that fails to fit the paradigms of diagnosis, but quiets down when given a pill whose effect overlaps its song: so much garbled, muscular, nerve-taut rage.

A refrain on repeat, a theme with such potential for variation there is no hope of exhaustion.
A language for one, perhaps shared, but incommunicable from one speaker to another. A book inside of someone who never learned the dialect, who never knew there was such a thing until it started speaking, and if hearing foreign voices in the head, where voices belong, is an indication of a break from reality, what would you think of me if I admitted to hearing the spine speak in ten different tongues?

One for each herniated disc, overlapping grammar
but each with its own syntax
for sending the brain its shades of pain.



Ricky Ray was educated at Columbia University in the Stars and Stripes, where he traded a career in engineering for a penniless prospect of self-investigation. His work has been published variously; recent examples can be found in Esque Mag   and the anthology Chorus.

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