Selected Poetry by John Grey
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
In the Land of the Rattle
Sure it's all frightening,
shrieking from the branches,
lightning's molten core,
dead leaves and gray clouds
trying to smother the Earth
while stray noise upsets everything
like a night cry,
the unfolding murmur
of a soon to be wild wind.
So every child born
is half that sweet talc smell,
half roaring and unhinged,
no answer to the ignominy
of a parent's egregious monotone
merely a babbling of grim expectation,
a fear of bath water
and expecting terror any moment
from whoever loves you best.
Her head tilts toward
the proffered communion wafer.
She's eager to nibble,
believes God is in the details.
She loves the way the autumn leaves
turn such fantastic colors.
Nature, she's convinced,
will never disappoint.
And her eyes are fixated
on the television kissers.
Will it always be like this?
She reads books,
believes the world
is pages turning
to her thumbs and fingers.
She loves the people
closest to her.
And, in her eyes,
everyone older knows more.
Sure, disappointment, disillusion,
are waiting for her
in the distance, in the future.
Nothing more cruel
than all that hasn't happened yet.
But right now, innocence can take it.
I keep a diary for those
who don't write one. The amiable crack-head in the wiped-out alley,
the melancholy tramp who stumbles across the street, swears that traffic hasn't been invented yet.
Out comes the pen, when the passenger opposite me on the train does nothing but read Vogue and be lovely.
The middle-aged couple are too busy to be chroniclers, she with her parcels, he with mouth bordering chin.
And the kids on the basketball court haven't learned to spell yet. The young guy escorting the heavenly creature doesn't know what day it is.
I record the wave of ladies headed for the restaurant and weekly chat. I notate, tellingly as I can, the drunken hordes inside the bar.
Sure, sportswriters shed box-scores like fall leaves but my dimension is the strikes, the foul balls, of the heart, the head.
And the classifieds can tell you when your boat departs, stranger. But not why you're tossing streamers from the deck as it leaves port. That's my domain.
I can make it sound like responsibility
but it's nothing of the sort. No one ever sees and, even if they do, no one ever knows.
So please, keep on doing
whatever it is you do. I've got my eyes and ears open. I need you to stay human.
You Can Get behind the Wheel Again
A graveyard of junk cars in the lot
but it’s the Chevies
the guys are here for.
They pick the bones from hub caps
to hood ornaments.
Some are even piecing the together
the Chevy of the mind,
hunting up spare parts
from a wreck here,
a rust bucket there.
Blood stains do not bother them.
They pull a seat up seat up
by the springs.
Even a cruddy Styrofoam cup
comes along with the drinks tray.
Nothing like a rear window
with a sticker declaring,
“Thank God I’m a country girl.”
A tattooed guy in greasy overalls
doesn’t even blink.
So many of these middle-aged men
are intent on getting more mileage
out of their youth.
Maybe a steering wheel will help.
Or the door of a trunk.
Or a roll bar.
Someone grabs onto a fuel cap
then raises his fist in the air
like he’d scored a goal.
And it’s been at least twenty years
since he did that for real.
Loaded up with metal and plastic,
fake leather and glass,
everybody leaves happy…
everybody leaves younger.
Leaving the 80’s Behind
It’s so long since anyone I knew
Skin and bones are so 80’s.
There’s still one or two with HIV
but the pills keep them topside.
Their skulls don’t protrude
through cheeks and brow.
They’ve found a place in the world.
They’re not waiting to die.
This is not the decade
of tearful confessions.
No one’s telling the parents
or the kids who just might
have it too.
The support services are
still out there.
But the hugs aren’t fearful.
The kisses press flesh genuinely.
In the 80’s, there
were people who needed
someone to talk to.
But the one subject matter
lorded it above all others.
Now, the range of topics
has been restored.
The lower east side apartments
are full of lifers.
Death row’s back in prison
serving whatever time it’s got.
Found in the Trash outside the Freak Show
The bearded lady held the razor one inch from her chin tonight. She even brushed the longest hairs with sharp steel edge.
Somewhere in her head, her brain did the very same thing. "Damn my career," she must have spat into the mirror a hundred times.
The pin-headed man discussed hormone shots with his doctors. Alligator guy, embarrassment buried in a long coat, contemplated various skin creams at the pharmacy..
The Siamese twins watched home shopping network, on the lookout for
specials in Ginsu knives. The wolf boy hung outside the barber shop for hours. Who wants to be a freak forever?
But it was
Brian William Gordon Yates who finally broke from
side show world. He shaved his beard, fattened up his skinny frame,
healed his skin blotches, cut off his old cronies, got a haircut, started working at a real job. He swears this is his last poem ever.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Harpur Palate and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.