Ray Nayler

Three Suburban Sonnets 

Just beyond the builders’ colored plastic flags
in fields of sunburned wild wheat waiting
for the heat of asphalt slag and iron teeth
the town yields to untamed trench of railroad track.
Creosote and bits of porno magazines,
bottles to be shattered on the rails,
suitcases, dregs of whiskey, campfire rings:
raw matter we dig up from under hedges.
A torn page of sun-faded breasts and vulva,
discarded fork, transistor radio:
amalgamated fantasies
of hobo boxcars, cans of pork and beans,
the railroad’s dirt-streaked and invoking seam—
just beyond the subdivided same.


One hand raised to shield his sun-baked face,
The Ohlone hauls his crooked boat
onto a rise of Scultptamold from AMACO.
His reed boat forged of toothpicks. In the “distance”
is meticulous Mission San Jose,
labored over with a wire foam cutter
most of one frustrating Saturday.
In the foreground, the viscous E-Z Water stream,
here and there shot through with model paint.
The shore’s stale dough and plastic underbrush.
Beyond the chalky sky and thumbnail birds,
small hands hold up this diorama world.
The boy on the bus, Hob-E-Tac on his sleeve,
clutching his clumsy shoebox history.


The sidewalk humps, pushed upward by a tree
insisting on its form from underneath.
The pavement’s chalky seam is worn apart
by fibrous wreath of plants, up from a soil
erupting dandelion and mayweed chamomile.
In windows, spiders spin their second screens
and on Formica countertops, ants bleed
trails of chemicals, caress the tangerines.
Digging in the planter-box with cast-off spoon
the boy brings up a whitened, earth-caked face
from a shallow tomb. Toy statue head, serene,
bathed under the kitchen tap and placed
on his bedroom shelf with other rescued things.
There, twitching in the night, it starts to sing.


Ray Nayler has poetry published in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Juked, Eclectica, Able Muse, Phantom Limb, and others. He is a diplomat with the Department of State, currently posted to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He has lived and worked in Moscow, many of the Central Asian republics, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. You can keep up with him at raynayler.net

Posted on July 7, 2014 .