Our collection of Ray’s poems is frightfully small. I’m sure he wrote many poems but my only proof is a conviction that he was capable of expressing a deep and sometimes threatening aspect of his thoughts that would not find justice in direct prose.

This is an undated, lengthy poem that I tend to read perhaps more into it than he implies. But that is good poetry, no?  A friend read it and called it a tour de force. It is more likely that I will never quite read enough into it and like to think that makes it better than good.

It is rather lengthy and therefore I have put in link in where the reader can stop and pick up the work later. I think one gets the best impact if it is read through in its entirety.

Hope you find it enjoyable and we welcome any and all comments or discussions.

Thanks.  rdh




[Every effort has been made to enter this poem with all the spacing and mechanics of punctuation etc. that appear in the manuscript. There are no dates assigned to the original but it is my belief that it was written toward the end of Ray’s life, as he had struggled for several years with inoperable cancer in his throat. Please enjoy and I hope that you will read it as I have, many times over. It is that kind of story. rdh]







Bruise your knuckles on stone walls

Hammering against truth

Or sleep and hope to dream…


In a dream of warped reality

I saw a wavering shore

Where children clutching yellow pails

Shoveled sand into inverted mounds

To crenellate the margin of the sea.

One enormous castle

With the ocean for a moat

Each busy child

Unconcerned with the meaning of existence…



Time will wash in against the fragile forts

And the Great Sea will sweep the sands.

Time, compressed against itself, brings

The beginning into juxtaposition with the end,

Alpha and omega

Folded in great accordion folds.


A life can be compressed

Between a coffin


And the child who shovels the Great Sea

Into his yellow pail.


Where did they go, those yellow pails?


And who will go down to the sea

To tell us

The meaning of




Someday, one child

Will re-affirm

The parting of the sea

Lay down his shovel

And put the world to rights.

Put down your pail, and follow me,

The voice said,

And one child went out to conquer God.



(The child’s dream)


I remember the sea…

The sea reached out with foaming, laughing fingers

And touched my feet in happy play.

And yet—

I heard the foam whispering with the multitude voice

Of the drowned men

The men long dead

Who called to me.

While my mother watched at the Great Sea’s shore,

I dropped my pail and ran

To the sloping dunes, leading

To where the great desert begins.

And I wandered…


And found…

Caravans crossing in slow cadenced step

The waves of slow-cresting sands

Breaking against the buried cities

Lost with long-forgotten glories in the charnel house

Of time…


On an emerald dune

I met a man sitting

Blind and ragged

In the dust

Where two roads leading nowhere



The teacher.

Words fell, the shallow sound of camel bells—

Empty words escaped his withered lips

Floating upward in the desert night.

While all the knowledge of the world beat soundlessly against

The star-lit emptiness of space.



(The teacher’s dream)


“In grey, stone-lined corridors

I hear again the Gregorian chant of hooded, hallowed men

Simulations in the dampness,

Whispering the mysteries of children

Who grow, like Faust,

In awe

Of what they cannot know…


I will teach you sophistry,

A noble trade for those who sell and those who wish to rule,

And for the high priests of every clan.


As if our knowing

Constitutes the truth.

As a student I was forced by life

To learn that if I sat cross-legged on the banks

Of the asphalt river, then I should not see

The wading night heron

Fracturing the moon shards into shimmering rings

Of cold fire

Fireflies hover beneath the surface


The rings congeal,

The many moons blend slowly into one

And the raven caws his nightingale song

Announcing day

At the edge of the Great Sea.


In all that the Great Sea taught

By the fact of its existence

It touched not on good or evil

Being but sides on a spinning coin,

Falsely minted

Yet gleaming—good and evil—

As spinning, it arcs from hand to hand…”


Then to cities of the past, we traveled

Where the teacher gestured to

Weathered statues of men

Whose stone-hewed hearts had once made a morbid glory shine,

Statues rising from pedestals sunk deep in the whitened

Residue of bones.


We traveled to cities newly built

Where stone men walk among the monuments,

Forging swords of fire

To carve empires from the dust.

These same stone men

Walk amidst the toil

Of quiet men,

Whose whitened bones will line the fields of future



And as I grew, we talked of love

With Mary Magdalene,

And Foust’s pure love, the lady Margaret,

Venus and the Virgin,

And of the freckled, red-haired girl

Who gave us all our first, shy kiss…


And of later kisses

Fired with passion’s heat

With frantic coupling—

Two sweated bodies

Plunging into oneness in the night.


“Choose! Take!” he cried as while he watched

A host

Of long departed beauties

Screaming with the lust of Aphrodite

Dragged me into

A carnal dream of flesh that knew

No satiety.


From all those golden limbs

One pair of arms reached out

And captured me, possessing,

Giving and receiving all,

In the warm embrace of love.


“Come back.” The teacher cries,

But my ultimate knowledge of

The universe

Rushes upon me…


“There is more to learn!” he cries,

“Much more have I …”


To teach…I answer for him as my rapture

Drains my thirst for knowledge

In the pounding dual thrust

Of truth’s first (last)?



From our genes – our replicators,

We carved another copy of the past.

And while we coupled

Sweating in our heat,


Loving each other…


Time came and opened another door.

And let me call on Camelot.


(The dream of empty castles)





I woke up

To find I had forgotten

The teacher,

The yellow pail,

The Great Sea,

After thirty foggy years,

And an equally hazy dream

Concerning a red-haired nurse,

A penguin and a porcupine

To find that I had fallen in love with two words.

One was “Cinzano”

But the other word wouldn’t bubble up

From where I had submerged it

In my subconscious.

(But I knew it began with a big ‘O’)

Not the “Cinzano” on the wine bottles

But the “Cinzano” printed on the scallops

Of a six-sided




I had to have one!


But you can’t just have a tan-gold umbrella

With “Cinzano” stamped all over it.

You have to have a round table like Arthur’s

But with a hole in the center for the umbrella

To fit.

(In all of this, I thought I heard the teacher’s voice).


So I bought one. (with chairs)


(That other word with its big ‘O’ still bothered me.)


And then I bought a swimming pool

To put the umbrella next to,

And a house because a swimming pool without a house

Looks silly.

And furniture…


(Still no hints on the big ‘O’ word)

Then a wife to take care of the house

And children which she immediately produced

(Exactly replicated)

All smiling.




One night, long after midnight

When the house was quiet

And the pool reflected stars,

Like knowledge,

Just light-years beyond my grasp,

I sat there under my tan-gold “Cinzano”


With the light from the dying moon

Showing through the fabric

And I suddenly saw and remembered the other word—




Like most fools,

I had the whole thing




Which can lead to frustration, desperation, and despair…



(A dream of rose-colored wine)


Then came the trash-can years.

(Figurative, of course)!

I spent them poking like

An old bag-man

Through the throw-away remnants:

The worn plastic and oxidized

Offal of the glutted consumer

Searching for the yellow pail.

After me, the flood

Of spermatici from Moby Dick’s great forehead,

The final absolution, benediction rites

From the great white brow of mad Ahab’s pursuit.

(Oh, to have pursued something, even in madness)!

While I stagger through the sea

Of swirling alleys, tom-cat yowling,

Searching for a grail

Finding grapefruit halves embalmed with coffee grounds

While Christ’s footsteps echo in the fog

Ahead (?)

Behind me a hollow

Sound as a galvanized lid clatters on

Damp stones over which the grey rat passes,

Belly low with trailing tail.

Its red eyes glowing with flickering light

From the seventh ring of hell.

The ringing sound spins itself to hollow silence, slowly,


And all the Great Sea is silent.


The flotsam: spent condoms

Stained on either side

With one half of human replication,

Footless shoes, all races run,

Wash against the shore

In the damp, low tide smell

Of human ebb.


Now, before

The tide returns

And washes all this clean

In a last baptism of human desire.



Have no more quests

No grail to find,

No windmill left,

To charge.



Is just a word,

And all too soon, each age has gone,

Faded into toothless-ness,

Lost in shadowed corridors

Where white-clad officers

Patrol the ramblings of

The final years.


Give me Alzheimer’s or give me…




But wait!


The sun has yet to set,

Allow me, I my terminal


One final dream…


(the dream of the vacant cross)



Just before the seven-AM mass

At Saint Catherine’s by the Sea

When the early light

Moved though the rose window

And slid


Down the aisle

To approach the altar in Virgin modesty—

In this hushed silence

Out of boredom

Or loneliness

Christ de-transfixed himself,

Stepped down from his hand-carved home,

And left the church

Without a backward glance.


Girding his loins in a three-piece suit,

Followed by a shave and a haircut at Nick the Greek’s

On twenty-second street,

Christ went off in search of another

Twelve good men

To see if they could start it all again.


Sister Mary Therese, old, infirm,

But bright of eye and mind

Noticed the empty cross, but said nothing

To Father John, who had his back to the action

(The recognition of miracles

Most often leads to ridicule).

She thought


Christ found Peter J. Almeister

In the boardroom

Of his thriving conglomerate,

Looking a lot like the last man to leave the table

At Leonardo’s banquet.


“P.J.,” Christ

Said, “How about dropping all this and

Coming in with me?”


“So what are you?” P.J. asked, “a head-hunter?

I’m showing a profit for the first time,

And you’re suggesting I should quit?”


“Nothing wrong with profit,” Christ said

Shaking his head sadly, as he left for the doctor’s office.


“Quit smoking; lose a little weight,” Christ said.

“Heal yourself, then you and I could work together…”

And so on…


But the good doctor’s mind

Was spinning

With the high cost

Of malpractice insurance

Should someone sue

For failing to be saved.


Again, Christ shook his head

Then tried the docks

Where local fishermen (AF of L- CIO local 3232)

Were out on strike

“Sail with me” Christ said.

“And we can cast our nets to catch men’s souls.”


But he finally gave up

When he realized that they thought that souls

Meant flounders.

And he floundered around with the rest of us

In the Dead Sea of Uncertainty

Until sundown

That magic hour

When he shed the suit (Grey, pin-stripe, with a European cut)

And climbed back up on his wooden rack.


Sister Mary Therese

At the next day’s morning mass

Was relieved to see


Back up there where he really belonged

Riveted to




(The dream of the completed circle)


We have wandered, you and I


One and the same.

Whether we searched time’s true meaning

Or sought to mark the coursing of the stars,

It matters not

For we are all that we know of life and time.

Time folds back upon itself

In great accordion folds.


Let the dreamer sleep.



My mother’s shadow

Falls across the sand.

The dying sun warms the calm ocean

With its last light.

Tomorrow will light another child

To harmless play

Along the Ocean’s edge.


I search…

But my yellow pail is gone.



Where have all the yellow pails gone?



The End



A Path to Tomorrow?






One thought on “Pails”

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