Poetry: Selections from John Grey
To Be Sade From Shadow
The table shadow melts into the
shadow of the refrigerator, the stove.
There is no kitchen floor any more.
How late a time it is in the day
when things are more what they're not
than what they are.
The shadow of the house
seeps into the shadow of the woods.
Tree shadow swamps flower shadow
which drowns ground shadow.
She imagines all of life,
bodiless and dark,
in all directions,
She’d rather not be part of it.
She switches on a light.
In A Makeshift Jungle Hospital
I went into shock
when the guy in the bed beside me died.
.I knew no more than a little
of his story.
Good old beriberi.
It sounds like a dance
until it decides to dance with you.
He said nothing of his parents
nor of the town in which he was born,
nor of his sisters.
They may as well call the disease
by its local name – inevitable.
Some get it worse than others.
He got it worst of all.
Legs like pythons with rabbits in their guts.
Testicles the size of baseballs.
His eyes are groping upward,
through a cloud of buzzing flies.
That’s where they last saw light.
Sharing A Room With A Monster
the sound of a heart throbbing,
lying in bed
clutching a blanket,
and some creature stalking;
a creak, then a shadow, finally a face –
the beast is here –
I cannot sleep, but blabber,
eyes like drummers,
threatening to explode
or, at least,
fire its weapon
at the far wall –
frail and ashamed,
like a runny-nosed boy in winter,
often I see something not there,
even go further,
speak to it,
yell at the thing to the point of exhaustion –
maybe it’s the house,
it contains no lost treasure
but has this great need
to not be empty –
so out comes a monster
from its daytime hiding place,
I’m terrified and it’s clever,
my room is its cave,
my tiny gasp is its large breath.
The Kids Enjoy Themselves Even Though Their Parents Are Dead
Here is your resting place, life says,
like it once pointed out in the mirror –
this is you all grown up.
An orgy breaks out of tears, handshakes and religion,
and the sound of sod slapping on a coffin lid.
Life goes on regardless. So does death.
Life made us what we are,
yet it so easily finds a replacement.
Now we’re dust, we get no credit for anything.
Later, it asks,
where were you when everything was happening?
In the heads of others, that’s where we’ve been.
In the hearts we made and then nurtured.
Those who came after owe us everything.
For some reason, life finds this amusing.
She was both erotic and mystical.
And grew up not knowing she was either of these things.
After all, she was answerable to everyday living,
had to imitate the ones who got things done.
So she took the form of one who makes beds, sweeps floors,
watches television, holds down a job…
but without descending into coarseness.
Even her bluntness came over sweet.
But the real woman was always there
even those times when there was barely a sign of her.
Like in the eyes. Or the corner of the mouth.
And the spill of hair onto both shoulders.
It was as if she born to the penthouse
but there was always stuff needed doing in the basement.
There was mud on the shoes to be taken into account.
And sometimes sneezes. Or a paper cut that took its time to heal.
I forgave her the bandage. Even the limp
from when she recovered from that muscle strain.
And when she ate out of a can.
Or, after a hard day working in the garden in summer,
when she looked like something washed up on a shore.
She was made for strolling down a sidewalk,
or taking the wheel of an open sports car.
But had she grown on a stem, blossomed,
opened up with the light, that would have been her too.
There were times I could unfold her like a map,
point out the towns, the rivers, the hills,
that I would just love to visit.
Yet I would watch her sew or paste or even
file stuff away, and still be more than satisfied.
Her neck, her cupcakes, her fingers around a fork,
her slender ankles, her hands in dishwater – all of a kind.
Sailing through life or one her knees scouring floors – no different.
In jeans, in a raincoat, in the fog, on a clear day, eating apples,
boiling water, pumping gasoline, nibbling on biscuits,
plastering, or buffing enamel up to whiteness – a oneness
to which her constant attention to the birdbath and feeder can be added.
She was the mistress of scratching and daubing, or peeling bananas
and blowing serene bubbles. She could hail a taxi, on one toe, hand raised,
like a ballerina as adroitly as she stepped around dog turd.
And she could wink and blink and wiggle and romp like a child.
Rain didn’t bother her. Dogs were for patting, And rust and mold
became her keepers of reality, the fate of all of us, good or bad.
That didn’t bother her. Nor did she regret the thrown away.
She was an art form, whether combed or uncombed,
bare-lobed or gilded at the ear, lips painted or natural,
dressed or undressed, silent or speaking.
For the pleasure she brought me, I offered myself in payment.
She took it. She spent it. Yet there was always more on balance.
John Grey is an Australian poet, now a US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review andSheepshead Review. His latest books: Between Two Fires, Covert, and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and California Quarterly.