John Grey, I Saw Ray

Rosemary Bailey, Pastel 3


I Saw Ray

I saw Ray today in passing,
cigarette dangling from his lips,
Adonis handsome, a remarkable figure of a man.
Why I’m telling you this
is beyond me.

For your place is here,
not with Ray
but sharing time and space
with your romantic night-owl
to whom you turn
when the day’s exhausted,
as it always is this time of night,
as we conclude, with a vengeance,
this meandering, meaningless day,
me reading the poetry of Shelley,
you in your down-dog yoga pose.

Peace comes in droves:
line after line,
stretch after stretch.
And who cares that our guy lost
in the governor’s race.
And your mother’s not well
and can’t come to the phone.
Or that Ray is the guy you dated
before we met.
The evening’s in a good place,
between the last of the dishes wiped clean
and the baseball scores from the west coast.

I wrap myself in “The Hymn To Intellectual Beauty”
and almost shriek and clasp my hands in ecstasy.
You’re in a state where you either
go head to head with nirvana
or yap like a terrier.

This is a grace period for love.
Aside from Ray,
we have nothing else to go by.

John Grey


Review by Brian Builta

I love the moment that this poem captures. A regular day in regular yet beautiful language. The poem itself is peaceful, “line after line.” Two people, the end of a day, poetry and yoga despite everything, “a grace period for love” presumably between a fight and the death of a loved one. I admire the jealous vulnerability the poem creates amid the hues and harmonies of evening. Why I’m telling you this is beyond me. You’ve read the poem!


Review by Kaci Skiles Laws

The first line and stanza of, “I Saw Ray,” captured my attention which is a must for me to classify something as good writing. The imagery really drew me in and made me want to know more about Ray.

The poem is weaved in a delicate, intimate way that is neither bitter or resentful, but accepting and grateful for the simple things in life.

It holds a sense of self awareness and love that takes great patience and self control which permeates each line and leaves a sort of stardust on the reader’s mind to marvel in once the poem closes.


Review by Dave Mehler

When I saw the title, I naturally assumed it would be a Raymond Carver poem, partly because many poets have written about “Ray.” For an example, see Hayden Carruth’s poem, “Ray.” The first stanza didn’t disabuse me, but by the second stanza I realized it probably wasn’t? I think it’s important to know that this Ray is still alive and kicking. He seems to be a haunting presence and pervasive threat to marital fidelity in the husband’s mind at least. And it’s bothering him. The penultimate stanza seems like a bit of comic caricature of the couple, and relief, but then the hammer blow in the last stanza, where we learn Ray doesn’t just haunt the marriage, but has become the standard of love and virility, either self-imposed by the speaker against himself, or by the wife, or both. It’s a dark turn, but a moving and believable one. I still wonder if somehow this isn’t a poem referencing Raymond Carver featuring a speaker sitting around reading Shelley (clever reference to Adonis/Keats, BTW); they could not be further diametrically opposed?


Review by Jared Pearce

In this poem the chatty bopping is at wonderful odds with the way the entire poem coheres as it closes.  At first the speaker is going on, doubling back on his own talk, but as he continues, as the bits of his and his wife’s lives come into focus, the relationship and how the speakers feels about the relationship is revealed.  We know the couple conforms to a certain level of comfort with each other, so much so that they can pursue their individual interests without really worrying what the other is doing.  That level of comfort and companionship is wonderful.  And then here comes Ray, both as a real person and as a memory, and now there’s one thing that looms over the irenic evening before the couple.  The unanswered question, as well as the consideration that love needs a grace period (? Isn’t, in some form, love the grace-period itself?), hovers over the evening and the couple, especially the speaker, who appears to be a little worried that the idealistic Ray has been spotted.

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