Robert Duncan Gray


To make a long story short, I failed again.

The eleventh fingernail
of morning lavender
with some foreign leaf
gradually steeped.

The water was too hot.

I licked my thumb at the wrong cloud.
It was a damn shame.

There is elbow skin stored in my cheek
and a composure of soup, but still
that doesn’t mean there is not
a bird curled in a burning bush
with your name on it.

I think about you every time a dead man blinks.

I think poetry might be an active ingredient in cigarette smoke.

I plucked an eyeball and ate it raw.
I suckered a blind kid.
We pretended to eat vegetables.
We ate pills.
The Queen of muscle relaxants is at the front door.
She will scoop you up.
She will dangle you.
She will blow kisses toward your dead mother.

There are better things we could be doing right now.
Roseanne is on.

Letter to B.

Dear Beyoncé,

It’s me again.

This is just to say
I want to see you naked
with the same urgency I feel
when I see a small bird
and I want to place it upon my tongue
and hold it in my hollow shrine of wet flesh and yellow teeth.

My kitchen is an ocean of burdock and squash.
My bedroom hates my bed.
My thatched roof hates everything beneath it.
My snow globe, for the sake of keeping up appearances, shakes itself.

One day I will show you.

You are more than welcome here —
you and your cleft lip of offspring,
you and your wild love of winter vegetables.
you and your sister who always has such sad things to say,
but this is not the meat of this letter, dear Beyoncé.

The meat of this letter, that is to say,
what I really want you to understand,
is that I want to die happy
but I doubt that will happen
so I will settle for dying normal:
alone and without music,
clutching my passport, mid-sentence: “I should very much like
to see San Francisco one last . . .”

And of course the truth is that
the Golden Gate Bridge
couldn’t care less about us
and nothing could be more cold soup
than me here and you wherever you are.

I wonder if you have ever poached an egg.
I wonder whether or not you have a favorite pair of sweat pants
that have stains and smell like farts.
I wonder if your armpit smells like deep fried catfish
wafting through a loft in Williamsburg
or fresh fruit in the South or maple syrup or
a bus driver’s seat.

I have never met you, but I miss you very much
Picture this: your hand in mine.

This is the best part of my day.
I have collected these words
so that perhaps you can use them to build a house
for your vast collection of high heeled shoes
for the diamonds on the soles
and all your hats made of pieces of
dead bird.

This is just to say
you are red meat. Don’t worry.

It’s just me again.


Robert Duncan Gray is an Englishman who grew up in the Black Forest of southwestern Germany and currently lives and works in Portland, OR.