Monday, April 30, 2018

John Grey: Six Poems

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


Ten p.m.,
wife watches TV,
it's a man's kitchen,
four in all,
each hunched behind
a wall of quarters and dimes
and a cool glass of beer.

Radiators thump,
beagle sniffs each shoe in turn,
police siren in the distant night,
eyes on the dealer
as he slaps cards face down
on the table.

Four look at their hands -
one's face is blank
as a waked corpse,
one smiles smugly,
one's eyes travel back and forth
from card to card
like a witness at a police lineup,
one uncorks a breath
for all to hear.


Sweat seeps through forehead redness,
strong wrists join at the spade handle,
steel blade chips into soft clay,
tosses earth on top of earth,
and a deep hole emerges.

Worms slither away from the onslaught.
Breath is red and black with soil.
The spade cracks against a rock
and every bone shudders.

Strong sun overhead.
A man could use a little breeze,
more shade from the willows,
maybe some water.
No more purpose though.
He already has that in spades.


Here’s where husbands and wives go
to live their separate lives together,
under heat-lamps, before the television,
on the telephone, in the garage,
knee-deep in the garden
or at the card table with the guys.

It’s all fenced in
so as to look like it’s
holding people to their word,
but that’s mostly a fa├žade,
like the tiled roofs,
the dully painted walls,
all a paean to the idea
that everybody must be somewhere,
so why not here,
in the vicinity of someone else.

There’s even kids to share around.
And summer vacation,
the perfect opportunity to move
the two for one deal elsewhere.
Longings are never discussed.
Dreams remain unanswered.
Occasionally an argument arises
a necessary assertion of self
to whoever happens to be there.


Streetlights yellow as sun.
Dave's on the sidewalk - dead -

then six feet of cemetery grass,
Dave's buried - dead -

no wonder
his favorite drinking hole
feels empty

even though
it's thronged
with drunken guys

talking up old exploits -

faithful, soused admirers -

everyone's got a story -

but he's as dead
when they're finished
as when they began

and he'll be dead
when the bar closes -

dead come morning hangover -

dead when the new day demands
whatever it is
living people do -

and, from now on,
they’ll do it
without Dave.


Despite the music playing in the background,
nobody was dancing to it.
A few moved here and there,
mostly a shuffle toward the door,
the subtle kind
where it's not apparent
that they're leaving.
And there was Aunt Doris,
only seen at weddings and funerals,
the haughty carriage of her head,
and the raspy sound of her breathing,
like a file on prison bars.
Her presence was confirmation
of the pleasures of being somewhere else.

I joined the escapees in the parking lot.
Outside was as gloomy as inside had been.
Fog dripped from the pines
that misted off into nothingness
toward the distant town.
The air was drizzly.
The mood depressing.
My car, in the darkness,
was more hearse than Toyota.
"I hate wakes," said one of my cousins.
I hated death.
It amounted to the same thing.

I headed home
and not even the sports talk on the radio
could do anything for my grief.
I'd remain upset that he had died
despite the better recent showing
of the home team.
It was hard to see through the damn fog.
Lights were everywhere
but there were no faces.
Either time would have to heal
or the weather clear.
I drove toward
the most likely to come sooner.


Townsfolk didn't expect a tornado.
After all, there wasn't the sniff of one
in their entire town's history.

No flying gas pumps,
soaring cows,
houses lifted from their foundations
or swirling cars.

Sure they'd suffered through
a drought or two
but they figured
the weather was on their side.

No one could imagine
horses slammed against tree trunks,
coffins bouncing down Main Street,
trucks careering through cornfields
or siloes spilling their guts.

Townsfolk never said it
hut they just assumed
that it wouldn't happen
to their tiny
out of the way burg.

It never did either
except in the head
of the angry friendless boy
imagining all this.
It never did
but not for want of him
cussing and pleading.

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