Ray Greenblatt

Ray Greenblatt

Ray Greenblatt has lived in New England, the West Indies, and along the Eastern Shore. He has written short stories, essays, and poetry which have been published across the U.S. in periodicals as diverse as America, English Journal, and Joseph Conrad Today.

He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and won the Anthony Byrne Prize. He was also the editor of the magazine General Eclectic. A teacher for many years Ray Greenblatt has taught writing in the Philadelphia Writers Conference as well as spoken at the John Steinbeck Festival in Salinas, California.


We fracture patellae
getting off the airplane,
tripping over stanchions
we fall flat smashing faces.

Yet we tour church after church
sit glowing in shaded parks,
study balcony windows
for artistic touches,
salivate at display cases
of undefined victuals.

The odor of urine
in alleyways is
somehow reassuring.


Crows squawk, gulls whine, doves halloo
dog have three legs, cats are blind.
Santa Sophia
is stained and peeling,
Blue Mosque overrun by tourists,
the Sultans have left
Topkapi Palace
abandoning their jewels
which are lackluster
without any cleaning.
As we sail away
monuments shine, domes sparkle
as in the old days.


Wind in my earpiece
odor of fig tree
scent of broiling corn,
city in middle of nowhere
over marble pock-marked
by a thousand years,
shops, parks, apartments
sewers, hot water
metal furnace and steam,
we sit to feel human
strands all the way back,
then silt took over
earthquakes finished it.


Sailing from Byzantium
over a rum-dark sea
sober in the daylight
with dawn memories of
out of a cradle rocking
we wobble, stutter, weave
across the stateroom floor
and down the corridor
to find in the cafe
other passengers
replicating robotic moves
in attempts at grace as
they bolt their scrambled eggs.


I haven’t been here
for thirty years, but I
remember the narrow road

then the bus stop from town
to here and back again
to the hotel alone

that large curtained room
empty but filled with furnishings
and me by myself traveling.

I remember Knossos now
modern and I could enter
more rooms then but not now,

statues sometimes armless
but now I have you and
I don’t mind returning here.


The Sirens hover all around
eternally seducing
on every promontory.

Scylla and Charybdis
two islands on the rim
of a tectonic plate.

More abstract as each
century whisks by,
Polyphemus’ one eye
is Etna blindly staring
then fuming vengeful tears,
his boulders lava.

Ulysses dwells in
all the harbor towns.


Civilizations roll
over one another,
Neolithic, Greek, Roman . . .

yet temples still stand though
roofless, stripped of plaster
and brilliant frescoes;

their beauty and power
written about by Ovid
and Prosperio
praised by Goethe and

Winckelmann; a new town leans at
the eastern boundary as if
to absorb their energy.


How many sneering
bizarre, blank faces
have you seen? you wave
your hand, your straw hat
leap up on the sea wall a
hundred feet above the rocks;
you have a chunky trunkful
of town and times to
change into magic;
where to begin: the steep steps
shops, food, sieges, a gleam of
window slit high in the wall . . .
your show is your all.


All ports are beautiful,
the major avenue
and square squirming with people,
statues of writers and
artists come to life.
But where is that seagull going,
what are those sycamores–
popular in any city–saying?
And again when at
sea sails become whale teeth,
quivering masts like
tips of bows at the year’s
most dynamic concert.


We have finally
come to the end, up
a sinuous languorous river
docked beside a green park
next to a Moorish tower
a five hundred year old church
brick, tile, wrought iron,
here where time is no
more than a coat of stucco
bittersweet as marmalade
by docks where caravels rocked
where Columbus finally
came home.


In the last couple days
their sounds have grown more frenetic,
personalities have
found personalities
not that anyone
slights anyone.
          Birthday cakes and
          anniversary songs
          seem to have increased.
Small groups raise toasts
precariously high
or snuffle over snifters,
recalling an anecdote
an adventure in
the last couple weeks
which now feel like years.
          Soon fast friendships will go
          on their stolid way
          growing more distant
          as weepy wavings of goodbye.

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Poetry in this post: © Ray Greenblatt
Published with the permission of Ray Greenblatt