Tuesday, December 20, 2016

David J. Thompson In Ireland

I like it when David J. Thompson travels, because he always sends back some great photos of street art he encounters, so when I saw he was in Ireland I couldn't wait to the photos of his travels. Our Russian friends who have been extra-especially fond of this blog lately should enjoy this, too, because I know Russia has a fine and longstanding tradition of enjoying the arts. 

Our Fingers Crossed

The nurse brings you to the room,
says the doctor will be right with you.
It seems much smaller since the last time,
you sit with your elbows near your knees,
your hands surround your chin, thinking
you’d start praying if you only knew how.

Three months ago in this same place 
the doctor scrolled through his laptop
 for a few minutes, then turned to you 
and said there were tumors on your lung. 
You stared at him as if he were speaking
a language you had never heard before
as he explained that they were too big,
too close to some artery to operate right away.
We’ll have try chemotherapy first, he said,
try to shrink them so you can have surgery.
We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed.

Any minute, the doctor will come in.
You’ll stand, shake hands, say hello.
He’ll sit at the desk, unfold his laptop,
look at that scan you had last week,
and turn toward you again. You sit up
straight, take off your cap, rub your hand
over your bald head that no longer feels strange.

You listen for footsteps coming down
the hall that might be his, but all you hear 
are faceless voices from the nurses’ station. 
Well, what are we doing for lunch today?
NOT Wendy’s again . . . We could do Chinese. 
I’ll go pick it up . . . We haven’t had pizza
in a while. I have some coupons . . .
You slide down in your chair, extend your leg
as far as you can, and push the door closed gently 
with your foot. It’s quiet again, but somehow
the room now seems even more cramped, 
with still nothing for you to do but wait.


Just The Opposite

Looking for something to read
before bed, I find Hesse’s Siddhartha
on the shelf in my friends’ guest room.
I pull it down, stare at the cover
still familiar forty years later. It was
my favorite book in 10th grade,
back when, I remember, all I did
was play basketball, think about 
making out with Sharon Miller, 
the new girl with the shiny blonde hair 
who was always chewing gum,
and listen to Dylan’s Nashville Skyline 
until I wore it out. I sit down on the edge 
of the bed, turn the book over, read
the blurb on the back. I try to recall 
what is was like back then to want 
to get older, how urgent to hurry 
toward a driver’s license, then 
to turn eighteen to buy booze legally,
hang out in bars, and get away to college. 

Now it’s just the opposite, you dread 
getting even older, your parents long gone, 
friends your age now with cancer or dementia. 
It’s all sped past, heading quickly toward 
what you can’t even force yourself to consider.  
You drop the book on the floor, shake your head 
at all that Hesse spiritual odyssey bullshit,
turn out the light, and climb under the covers. 
For a moment you wonder what it was even like 
to fantasize about hitting a game-winning shot,
or bubble gum kisses while Bob Dylan sings
a scratchy Lay Lady Lay in the background, 
then you close your eyes to another day 
about to slip by as quickly and silently 
as teenage dreams that never came true.


The Dullness of Such Protection

Back then, when I was in high school,
we called them rubbers, never heard
the word condom until years later.
I knew my dad used the classic Trojans
from seeing the little wrappers when I took 
out the garbage every Tuesday night.
The Health class lecture on birth control
made me curious, so when my parents left
me home alone on Saturday I went through
my dad’s sock drawer till I found a little box
of them, took one for myself figuring 
he wouldn’t notice, then grabbed the Playboy 
I kept hidden behind my album collection. 
It took a few tries to stretch it out the right way, 
but I figured it out pretty quick, then made sweet love 
to the Playmate of the Month, barely noticing 
the dullness of such protection. When I finished 
in a few minutes, I flushed twice to make sure 
all the evidence was gone. I grabbed a bag
of cookies and a glass of milk from the kitchen,
then went downstairs to watch Mary Tyler Moore, 
satisfied for once that Miss April wouldn’t be
calling the house for me again crying about 
how her period was late like she did once
last summer and got my parents all angry 
at me for jerking off so much. I finished 
all the Oreos before Bob Newhart even started.



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

John Grey Poetry

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.  


"What day is it?" I ask my wife.
I know the answer.
But the question is, does she?
"It's your birthday," she says.

I will not let her off easily.
"So how old am I?"
She does the math in her head
and arrives at the answer, "50."

I do not indicate if she is correct
but continue on with my interrogation.
"And what did you buy me for my
fiftieth birthday?"

An odd look precedes her response of
"I bought you absolutely nothing
because you are not fifty
and it is not even your birthday."

She finally confesses that she
doesn't know what day it is.
That's when I explain that it's the 75th
anniversary of the 18th amendment's repeal.

She often says that all this trivia
is enough to drive her to drink.
"At least you won't be breaking the law,"
I add.


IN THE WAY                       

You're in the way.
Could you move those clothes, those books,
And the appliances, please.
Especially that coffee maker.
The music collection, half-vinyl, half-CD,
why not make it all gone.
Thank you.

But there's still more clothes,
stuff you haven't worn in years,
that's clogging closets.
Why not just take the closet.
And hidden beneath the clothes
are more books -
classic novels, medical tomes,
and magazines, fashion and sports.
If you weren't such a well-rounded person,
there'd be less work for you to do.
You've removed the collected works of Collette.

Your car's blocking the driveway.
Your garden's encroaching on the lawn.
Yes, I'm aware that it's your lawn.
So move the lawn and the garden will come with it.
Get rid of the car and roll up the driveway.
stuff it in the trunk, if you wish.
Yes, it's okay to start with the little things.
The rake... if that helps.

Look, there's so much of you in here,
you may as well take the house with you.
Every room, even the cellar.
Boiler, refrigerator, trunk in the attic -
why am I not surprised the bedroom
is the first thing on the back of your truck.

While you're at it, this neighborhood is in the way.
Take it while you're here -
every house, every fence, dogs, mailboxes, fire hydrants,
even the corner store.
Grab the city while you're at it.

The country, The world. The sky both blue
and star-lit.
Of course. Of course, your childhood doll.
Isn't that the true source of all things accumulated?

I won't be satisfied until
I'm sitting, walking, living,
in this great bare landscape,
where I can go where I want,
do what I want.
No, you're right.
Nothing would still be in the way.
So why don't you take it with you
instead of all this other stuff.
Yes, take nothing.
That should just about cover it.


I am a stone.
the lowest form of creation.
I'm granite,
a combination of quartz.
feldspar and biotite minerals.
I can only be moved
by outside forces.
from some brat of a kid
tossing me at his sister
to seismic donnybrooks
down below.
Otherwise, I am strictly inert.
I could have fallen from the sky
or been part of the rubble
from a long ago Ice Age.
What do I know?
I'm dense. I'm thick.
I've none of the five senses
and as for feelings -
where do you think the term
"heart of stone" comes from.
I am undeniably old
but that's brought me no wisdom.
No arms, no legs,
no muscle, no brain,
I can't do a damn thing but sit here.
You've heard the phrase,
"Written in stone."
I guarantee I didn't write it.


Love can be like that goddam candy machine.
You put your money in, make a selection,
it snaffles your coins, and then nothing
comes out the other end.

Then you go to the guy at the register
and he just looks at you blankly
and says something really unhelpful like
"I don't got the key."

Or maybe, just maybe, he's like me,
and he gives you a line such as,
"A candy machine is like love.
You're hungry for it,
you make your best play,
it takes all you've got to give
and then you get nothing out of it."

So have you got the key?
I sure as hell don't.


You can't treat him like that.
Ask questions all you want
but it's not in his nature to answer them.

I tried that back when he first came.
He stared at me blankly.
And then I could sense him
drawing far back into himself,
like a tortoise retreating to its shell.
But, unlike that reptile.
his carapace was his face.

I thought, at first, that it was me,
that what I believed was kindness.
he interpreted as badgering.
But it was something within himself.
Hold his hand all you want.
even kiss him on the cheek,
but there were ways in which
he didn't want to be touched.

More than anything,
he loved having the hose turned on him,
that stream of cool liquid
splashing every part of his body.
It didn't even have to be a hot day.
The way he jerked about in that spray
was almost like dancing
which was something he never did
when there was music about.

He would reach up
and try to catch to catch the water
but it would slip through his fingers
or slap against his palms
and splatter in all directions.

He connected to that flow
more than he did with people.
I'd towel him dry and he'd be friendless.



Late at night.
she wonders about him.
He's living in another city now
which may as well be another continent.
When she says its name.
it seems so far far away.

She hopes he's doing well at his new job.
She's still concerned about
those pains in his joints.
She even finds herself concerned for his kids.
But not his wife.
She can see the two of them at the table.
Mona's prepared his favorite dish.
His lips smack their way into a compelling smile.
Mona beams.
Why must even her imaginary casserole
taste so good.

To think.
this was a man who once made
any excuse to slip away,
who rejoiced in the freedom
of kissing someone
who actually kissed back.
Her fingers massaged those aching shoulders.
Her soft words brought calm to that throbbing head.

And now the one who asked for nothing in return
has been gifted with exactly that,
plus too many extra pounds, a matronly appearance,
strands of gray perverting her nut-brown hair.

Maybe he thinks everything about them
was so implausible, it never really happened
Yet they were joined -
joined yet if only he could see.

And she knows things his wife will never know.
About herself mostly.