May 152012

by Blake Ray


In the parking lot of the convenience store,

a loose stone

rolls away from my boot

across the asphalt,

shattering the brittle peace

of a Sunday afternoon.

Dead leaves and cigarette butts

dance in whirling eddies

stirred up by an apathetic

breeze, that brings with it the

smell of wood smoke

and a veiled threat of

the approaching winter cold.


Small towns have always made me nervous.

I am aware of myself and my voice comes slowly,

and without grace. I feel like a spectator at a funeral

or like a priest with no faith taking confession.


Inside the store, a woman

sits behind a finger-smudged

shield of thick plastic watching

my interloping face

with voyeuristic fascination.

She sells me 

cigarettes and a coffee

without speaking,

and I am sure

I felt her stare following me,

shadowing me

to my car,

onto the highway,

out of town,

and all the way to the county line.