2nd generation Lebanese-Irish American
five sentences about Mitch
Mitch Rayes wouldn’t be here if his Irish mother didn’t leave the convent to marry a Lebanese chemist. He was born breech in Detroit, attended Wayne State University as a merit scholar, and Naropa Institute before the school was accredited.
Mitch spent many years in Mexico as a professional guide and outfitter specializing in remote areas of Chiapas. His mountain home near San Cristóbal was ultimately seized by armed indigenous rebels.
Poet, translator, musician, arts organizer, contractor, and father of two, Mitch produced four Albuquerque Poetry Festivals, published THE TONGUE newsletter for eight years, and received a Gratitude Award in 2013 from New Mexico Literary Arts for his warehouse performance space THE PROJECTS.
STIGMATA (undressed with commentary)
a version of this poem was included in the anthology IN COMPANY, edited by Lee Bartlett, V.B. Price, and Dianne Edenfield Edwards, published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2004
the truth revealed can stop us in our tracks…..faith keeps us going
STIGMATA here I chalk a path uncertain three crosses carved in a young man’s back then forty years against forgetting crucial fictions traced in dirt buried with all the first stones hurled this old man removes his shirt [December, 1984. Waiting for a tetanus shot at the Northeastern Regional Hospital in Las Vegas, NM. There is an unassuming elderly gent next to me, about to be admitted, and members of the ER staff are assisting him with changing out of his street clothes. When his tee shirt comes off, we all see that his back has been scarred with the three crosses of the Penitente Brotherhood.] how long can it be since he’s last seen his sister? a steel blade desperate to undo her flesh severs her evening prayer and having dared to stand and lose a woman raises what’s left of her hand somewhere unaware a man sips his cup unfolds his paper unfolds his grief his rage his sister’s blood is front page news [August 31, 1983. Members of a Druze militia slit the throats of several dozen civilians in the Christian village of Bmariam in central Lebanon. The attack is in retaliation for the massacre of Druze non-combatants the week before, at the hands of Christian Phalangists. Among those killed are the Maronite patriarch of the village and his wife, who happens to be the sister of my grandfather. He reads the account published in a Detroit newspaper several days later.] and how long has it been since he has seen his brother? the lake is like a mirror a boy swims out alone past the calls past the buoy his foot brushes something makes him shiver makes him see a stranger’s hand is waving from the underwater meadow [May 28, 1972. Michael Reid gets separated from his friends while swimming in Cass Lake in southeastern Michigan, and never makes it back to shore-- one of twelve local drownings that Memorial Day weekend. A close friend of mine makes contact with the submerged body several days later. They are both fourteen years old at the time.] there is a place of no returning where the dead will bury the dead a single voice is crying crying for a father anyone to take this cup downcast broken waiting in a street of jaded brows one is crowned in razor wire one dream-dashed or angry flees to the end of a rope frozen there or to a glitter of glass from ten stories up ten quick stories in the dwindling air [November, 1983, Wayne State University campus. Something in the air catches my eye. It is a young woman soundlessly dropping to her death from the tenth floor fire escape of Mackenzie Hall on the corner of Cass and Putnam.] here I toss a line out for the boy I used to be to hang a washed out faith upon as he stumbles over another body and ignorant keeps walking and walking on knows more: comes upon a motorcycle wrapped around a lamp post and looking back begins to run [Spring, 1974, walking home from school. There’s a guy passed out on the sidewalk, which is not unprecedented. Several steps later I see a mangled motorcycle and realize he’s been thrown from the bike, maybe forty feet.] no darkened sun foretells what will become of him and it is in not knowing he’ll have to find his hope and try to hold his grief as two hands grub another supper mustard seed and locust bread a sponge soaked in drugged wine water and blood a sustenance powerful and brief as rain in this land of fallen temples that shall not rise again
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I have not been back here this century. It
Late August I
My old reliable truck, 276,000 miles, plucked from its parking spot of eight years