Official Website

2nd generation Lebanese-Irish American


five sentences about Mitch

photo by Nick Rayes

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… keeps us going


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


waypoints 8

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. Just the two of us. Larry was driving, I was slouched in …

waypoints 7

I have not been back here this century. It’s not on any map. Overgrown and abandoned, you can pass within a few feet of it and never even see it. A quarter mile into the woods suddenly you’re on the brink of a precipice—unexpected, immense, baffling. Out of nowhere, sheer drops reveal a vast limestone …

waypoints 6

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 …