rc Gray




Daphne asks Marcus to quantify loneliness,

and without looking, he points towards

the sound of a plane. She doesn't understand,

so he suspends her from his kitchen ceiling

with copper wires—a bird's eye view

of every tangerine he peels, each article

he reads in the Sunday news.


Sometimes she sleeps, drifts

under the waning fluorescent bulb

that stays on above the sink.

Other times, she tracks the movements

of confused spiders around the whisper-quiet fan.


She begins to notice the inconsistencies

in the floor tiles—the uneven filler in the grooves.

Then the pale dome of skin crowning

on the top of Marcus' head.


I could reach out and touch you,

if you had better posture,

she says when he sits beneath her.

I could help you if you'd let me, those nights

he runs the faucet and barely moves.


Despite her best efforts, he doesn't hear her,

and the rafters have begun blending with her bones.

Each day, she thinks less and less of asking

to be taken down.





You wanted to name our beach house Carthage,

so at least we'd know what to fight over

when we fell apart. That was you: a forward thinker.

The kind of man who could drag me anywhere

and get me to stay.


Ocean grit in everything: the cracks in the sinks, the bread—

It takes a special kind of person to live out here,

you whispered, pipe in hand, a caricatured sea captain

with your arm loose around my shoulders,

and for a minute, I thought we could make this a life.


Eight hundred days later though,

I still can't find the sun buried under New England clouds,

and your work keeps you away more than you'd planned.

I mostly sit and watch the wind carry off the tops of sand dunes,

whisk away brightly colored blankets.



Three Ways of Breaking Apart


I couldn't do anything, so I wrote a poem

about a girl who tied the ends of her fingers

with strings fastened to a brick.

How the wet, zipped sound of twine through skin

stuck in my ears long after she dropped

the block from the roof.


The piece was for you, splayed out

like children's chalk drawings:

ugly-obvious and trite.



It's a flash summer in November

where you are, eight hundred miles away,

and I imagine you surrounded by women

in dresses, thin straps against their shoulders.


Someone I know once said, Writers give readings

to meet people who want to fuck writers.

Without reason, I think this is not far off

from what you do.


I read tarot cards on my floor,

buy a new shade of pink for my lips.

I press them again and again against

the beveled mirror that reminds me each morning:

                  ten pounds lost is five years gained

                  if you can make him love you



I lit six candles to make my barren apartment

feel more like a home. In the dark, they glow

like torches in a film, a bundle of thick brush

the leading man carries steadily

from room to hidden room.


The girl I wrote about in the poem is standing in her kitchen,

her mutilated hands in thick gloves.

She checks, over and over, the tea leaves in a pot,

staring at something that isn't there. 


RC Gray is currently a lecturer at University of California-Irvine, where she received her MFA in English from the Programs in Writing.