I never said

I never said the treetops would be

enough to hide the lost points on your map.

They might just join together long enough

to sing something jaunty for the trip.


I never said that all conversations

would tell you enough to end your doubts.

But they might plant some

new ones that aim for the same end.


I never said you’d always have great birthday

parties with candles enough to roast popcorn.

But, with each new year, another candle brings

you that much closer to salting the world.


I never said the laws of nature would always

accommodate your need to experiment with pride.

But, neither did I say they were obvious enough

not to take you where you most want to go.


I never said the distances were short between

laughter and pain, burden and light.

But there will never be a better time to convince

you of your own staunch goodness.


I never said that you’d find the thing

you’d been looking for.

I prayed you have one more day to meet

your fears in the pursuit.


I never said I wouldn’t disagree.

Just that I’d always engage.

I never said I’d always remember.

Just that I’d regret the forgetting.

I never said you wouldn’t rage against the world.

But it just might hear your voice.

I never said I’d never leave you.

I said you wouldn’t always need me to stay.

I never said I’d never say such things.

For I am you.

Summer’s Repast

The Fairy Pools 20.jpgHer voice is always clearer
when she breathes her way
to late sunset-thoughts,
and a thousand possible songs –
ready to sing, but with no
urgency to sing them.

They’ll wait, and when you’re not looking,
they’ll groom themselves
into symphonies of days where casual
melodies of lazy, guilt-free sun
harmonize your life. 

Hush, speak slower. Say only 
what words bring thought and chance,
laughter and hearts to find the same story.
Never let a single sentence pass
without introducing yourself as
someone ripe for more of the same.

Forget what losses brought you
to this place. Remember only that
which formulates in the bubbling folly
of untamed rivers of remembrance.
They always have much to say
when one is tuned to hear
riddles in the waltzing water.

But, if sing you must, let go
the notes, large or small,
ripe and raw, trembling with anticipation
of summer’s repast, tuned and teasing.
And, above all else, don’t sing alone.

These are the days well fitted for 
the songs of neighbours.

Robert Alan Rife, May 29/18


Photo: The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2016


Somewhere down among the sheets,

between the spaces in loose gravel from nighttime sweats

lies the answer to an unasked question.

Somewhere underneath the skin of things

is poised another wrinkle, adding suggestions 

to the game of chances only played by winners in drag

or posers lost in long hallways.

Somewhere up among the heights of nether

is held packages of days, a fistful of years

soon to be released upon the cold, dark land.

Somewhere you awaken from the same nightmare

everyone has, standing before a crowd

leaning forward to listen, and you with pants at your ankles,

a mouth full of sand.

But the nightmare is real, you are not.

And it’s the speech you can’t remember,

adding salt to the wound,

grease to the pole,



fire to a barrel bottom.


What of it? he said.

What of it? he says.

What if there were the solemn chance of a reprise

to a time, long forgotten but fresh-remembered?

A chorus to a bad song?

A bad song on repeat?

Old onions on ice cream?

Frozen water in the pipes

when all you need is a drink?

Surely there can be one straw long enough

to snatch from the fist?

Or are they there just to tease you for

the risk of un-lived truth?

Relief that the ground will still catch you?

Under-thought high dives into a dry pool?

Over-thought reasons for the same?

Somewhere, around the perimeter, is a chorus-line

taunting from a finish-line you did not paint

in a race you never trained for.


Somewhere, you’ve stopped running to find it.

Somewhere has found you.


Dismissals – on considering responses to things

That same girl passes him in the hallway, more aloof than ever;

like the neighborhood cat that pisses on my door.

There is no response to the constant

calling of her name. Just an unambitious purr,

the casual dismissal of a creature to

unreasonable expectations.


I passed him on the street yesterday,

that guy I met at the poetry reading.

It was hard keeping his eyes long enough

to finish a sentence, let alone fragments

of a conversation fraught with the dismissal of a

 “yes, it’s really me here” mystique.


She stood with a cardboard sign that read

hungry and unemployed with kids pls help god bless

I could see her through the Starbucks window

where my second Americano was already cold.

That second guy wasn’t as good as the first.

He never leaves me room for cream.

Is that too much to ask?


She wasn’t typically a make-up gal

preferring the girl next door simplicity

of less-is -more. But tonight

she dressed up, even eyeliner and dark,

red lipstick and skin-tight black dress.

He glanced at her twice at dinner

through the glare of his cell phone screen,

 that never dimmed.


I sometimes shudder to think what remains

in the shadows of what’s left after encounters

dense with the unwieldy results of non-praise,

of missing the open doors, sips not taken from

frosty mugs of welcome, the sleepy

dismissals of what’s right now,

hesitant on the stoop of another’s hopes.

What can they expect from me?

Gratitude? Platitudes? Assuredness? Distraction?

A snotty hanky full of rare humility, raw and pink?


The game starts in half an hour.

The politics of light

There was a light that burned,

a shifting, settled light – the kind

that changes the room from one

kind of good to a better one.

The moths played in the shade

like winged marionettes parading

their playful dance never far

from the light but choosing

to stay stuck where it only shines

to amuse and titillate, not

where it shines to tease out

shadows and contours of faces.

Above, on a hungry ceiling dwell

other specters, images drowning

in the goodness of this moment.

Seated apart but facing each other

are the comrades of long-lived kindness

still working through the politics of light.