A Tale of Two Towers-Christine Ray & Eric Syrdal

Locked away in stone tower

rest of the world


becomes dim memory

time loses meaning

becomes shapeless



spent in solitude


only by whether

I read precious books

by sunlight

falling soft through windows

that no longer open

or dancing candle light


by this halflight

I read the words

of Tennyson

and his Lady of Shalott

in her lonely spire

whose shadow would fall

likewise across my

bitter landscape

but I’ve no magic mirror

to scry upon the world below

I search my embattled memory

to remember golden fields of rye

and green waves of grasses

against sapphire summer skies

here in this place

my color palette

is reduced

to the colors the melancholic

grey and brown


across flagstone and wall

and mortar in shades of ash


There was technicolor life once

music and dancing

intimate conversation

easy laughter

food delighted palate

wine danced on tongue

almost as sweetly

as your kiss

midnight words whispered

during stolen hours spent in

your strong, sure arms

before our fall

from grace

this lonely tower

this solitude

my self-chosen penance for loving recklessly

without reserve

without moderation


I could remove myself

no chains upon my arms

nor my feet

no bar upon the door

no lock

no elusive key that jingles upon

a jailer’s belt

forever taunting me

beyond the oaken boards

of the door

I have no sentence to fill

no judge has left me here

this is an oubliette

of my own making

I am the architect of this place

block by block

weathered and vine ridden

but this tower is high

and i’ve not the stomach for climbing

nor the strength

to smash the door

and descend the stair

by torchlight


Moonlight slants across the room

illuminates iron handle of

thick wooden door

as if beckoning me

from this empty bed

where I lie under snow white bedding

that has become both comfort

and shroud

But what awaits me outside this door?

Are these lonely hallways

full of ghosts

a hopeless maze

leading no where

or would they bring me

back to you?

Eric Syrdal is the  brave knight at My Sword and Shield


My Hit Parade

musical notes float through the air

almost visible to sleep deprived eyes

razor edged lyrics

chosen for their bite

sharp enough to penetrate ancient scar tissue

that crisscrosses internal contours

for every baby step forward

there are two slides backwards

to the place where psyche becomes blank canvas

to paint the nightmare landscapes

of silent screams and locked doors leading nowhere

with a knife dripping recrimination



in a palette of





reaching the thinned line

between sanity

and madness

between here

and gone


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved




We were more than fingerprints

brushed across each other’s wrists

we loved recklessly

and deeply

dipped our hands

into our souls

pulled out everything we were

before leaving our marks across each other’s bodies

I had never seen you more beautiful

than you were

with my handprint

caressing your cheekbone

shimmering across your heart


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

F Words

Fatigue hangs on me

like heavy ornaments

on a late February Christmas tree

branches brittle and bare

needles dropping to floor


in half-finished projects

incomplete thoughts

good–but soon forgotten– intentions

so much aromatic debris

carelessly spilling around my feet


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

When I am Small



half pain

half numb

compressed in on myself

until I am hard light

Cocooned in the strait jacket

I spun

Will you enfold me

in strong arms?

Draw me up

into your body’s warmth?

Remind me how to breathe?

Guide my muscles

my bones

back into the shape

of a woman?


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved


Weighed down

by sterile syllables

that do not roll off

tongue with ease

taste of examination rooms

rubbing alcohol

hand sanitizer

poked and prodded under glare of fluorescent lights

that make the blossoming head pain

triggered by waiting room perfume


turn into throb over right eye

not enough time to sound out

new labels

cypher meaning and implications

before polite dismissal

with a handshake

instructions to come back in a few months

before being replaced by the next

number in the queue

pages covered in medical hieroglyphics

clutched in hand

while walking toward Exit sign

Now what? echoing in tired ears


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

Sensory Integration

When I was a play therapist

I worked with several kids who had sensory integration issues

Some liked to sit under the table with their back or head against the wood

some liked to wear a backpack full of bean bags

some carried a weighted blanket or stuffed animal to make themselves feel grounded

When my brain goes haywire

I think I must have developed late-onset sensory integration disorder

The sun burns my eyes

the birds chirp their Spring songs much too loudly for me

My co-workers’ coffee, which I usually covet, overwhelms me with its roasted aromas wafting across the conference table

I admire the way that liberated warm weather dresses swing down Locust walk

rayon, silk, satin, linen drape beautifully

make their wearers walk with confidence

I like the feel of these exotic fabrics against my fingertips

but only seem able to tolerate utilitarian cotton knits

against my back

my stomach


My skin a raw exposed nerve

perceives these other fabrics like sandpaper

The acupuncturist palpates my numb right leg

looking for the best place to insert the hair thin needle

in hopes of returning sensation

to my errant limb

Her fingertip finds a meridian point

that is so excruciatingly painful

on the inside of my knee

I practically levitate off the table

She smiles broadly at me and announces, “We have a winner!”



© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved


Dragons and Peonies

The skin I am in

Longs to become acquainted

With the skin you are in

Our eyes meet

Across the room

And I forget that

We are not alone

We came tonight with

A larger group of friends

But we are increasingly

Attuned to each other


There is something in the air


I like the

Boldness of your gaze

As you keep catching my eye

Your snaggle tooth grin

The sound of your laughter

At some inside joke

The tantalizing glimpse

Of ink peeking out of

Your shirt sleeve


I wonder what it will look like

Lined up against the ink

On my arm

My gentle peonies

Against your fiery dragon

Your jeans and ironic tee

Hint of lanky muscles

Of steel

That I think will fit nicely

Against my curves


I cannot stop the smile

And slight blush from

Crossing my face

You seem to be

Reading my mind

Across the room

Your cocked eyebrow

And slow lazy smile

Indicate to me

That you are as

Distracted by me

As I am by you


I watch you make your


To your friends

That you have been

Only half paying attention to

Before you saunter

My way

When you are finally

Standing in front of me

I feel the warmth coming

Off your body

Catch a whiff of your clean scent

There is a sparkle in your eye

“Shall we?” is all you need to say

It feels as natural as breathing

When you reach for my hand

And we leave this crowd behind

Aware only of each other


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved


Where My Ghosts Come Out to Play

The room is tastefully decorated

Respectful distance is kept between her desk near the door and the comfortable chair that I decided the first time we met will be mine

Arms folded tightly across my chest,

hands in unconscious fists

Small table next to me holds kush balls and engraved stones with reassuring words like hope and peace and a box of tissues that I do not like to need

Art on the walls is soothing colors

mostly abstract compositions

except for the print of  colorful umbrellas that rests on the floor against the small filing cabinet

This is my favorite

She keeps the office lights dim and I watch the dust motes dance in the open space between us

Where do we start talking about the trauma? asks the kind voice across the room

Where do we start?! I ask myself

The usually tightly barred door that swings slowly open on rusty hinges

that makes a loud noise of protest

(or maybe that’s me)

is the door labeled “loss

My ghosts start to emerge from that cavernous space one by one until the room is full of transparent shapes standing around us curious to find themselves exposed to the light

how does it feel to talk about this with feeling?

without your usual detachment

to not discuss this as if you reporting the news?

it fucking hurts I think sarcastically to myself

snapping the rubber band she has given me to help me stay grounded with increasing  force against the tender skin of my wrist

and then force myself to stop

under her concerned eye

reminding myself that I really do not want to keep hurting myself

being my own worst enemy

inflicting my own wounds


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved