2nd generation Lebanese-Irish American
made in Detroit
based in Albuquerque
2nd generation Lebanese-Irish American
made in Detroit
based in Albuquerque
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.
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 hands and feet marked with crucial fictions three crosses carved in a young man’s back then forty years against forgetting tracking words 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 bites in the bristling air desperate to undo her flesh 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. Several days later my grandfather reads the published account in a Detroit newspaper.] 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. My dear friend L.W. makes chilling contact with the submerged body several days later, when he stops for a dip after a long bike ride. Both boys are 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 word-lashed broken waiting in a street of beaten skulls one is crowned in razor wire one dream-dashed or angry flees to the end of a rope frozen there or 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.] and one man throws a line out a filament of light to hang a reckless faith upon as a boy steps over another body and ignorant keeps walking and walking on knows more: comes upon a motorcycle wrapped around a light 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.] because we cannot know what will become of us and it is in not knowing one man finds his hope and a woman holds her grief and 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 neon-stained Gethsemane this land of fallen temples that shall not rise again
this poem was included in the Fixed and Free Anthology 2021, edited and published by Billy Brown
LACK because I find now years later in a letter from a friend these words write soon we need the rain I am reminded we are legion on this battlefield of language [In the struggle for hearts and minds the battlefield is language. The italics recall the original power of words in prayers and incantations designed to affect changes in the natural world.] because time after time I return empty handed more dumbfounded with each step knowing the work still to do cannot change enough I will drop the next stone and make a pitch for the ages you have yet to be born as I offer these words I will be lost to your touch before they can reach you [Words have the power to reach farther in time and distance than you can throw a rock or a hand grenade.] because of all those nights and days when everything seemed fine I salvage something to hold on to in the ceaseless drubbing something paradoxical almost self-defeating like the deformed acknowledgement which puts a poet behind bars or burns a book to extinguish its heat a gust of wind raises a perfume from the bent to cracking chamisa [Repressive societies recognize this power by silencing their poets. The italics offer an image of poetry which springs from violence imposed.] now when everything seems short when the only clarities left are those which confirm the worst in ourselves I will carry something ungovernable a billow of birds twists in the light sky black with rain [The last line presents an image of utter freedom, of promise about to be fulfilled. The broad suggestion here is that poetry has the power to transcend, transform and outlast physical violence, that it operates in defiance of those who would use language to exploit or repress. The poem also embodies a refutation of the notion (peculiar to so called free societies) that poetry is somehow a form of inaction.]
Late August I’m always reminded of the mountains of West Virginia and a spot of two lane blacktop that turned my life upside down. In August of 1979 we were heading north on a rain slick U.S. 250 in Larry’s 1973 Mercury Comet. Larry was driving, I was slouched in the passenger seat, trying to …
My old reliable truck, 276,000 miles, plucked from its parking spot of eight years—not for its monetary value, but for its dual catalytic converters and some short term scrap metal hauling. Gone forever I’m thinking. A week later I get a call at 3AM. Albuquerque police found my truck in the middle of a residential …
I was lucky enough to hit the road recently with my son Nick—3461 miles of it, including some of the most jaw dropping two lane stretches in America: US 550 from Durango, CO up to Ouray; US 50 into Lake Tahoe; CA 120 across the divide into Yosemite; CA 180 through sheer verticles into King’s …