- Australian borne Poet, John Grey joins us this week.
THIS IS WHERE IT HAPPENS
This is the spot exactly.
The lake, the cliffs.
They’ve been in my head all the years.
This is where I asked the girl…
now what the hell did I say?
and who was the girl?
But the swallows,
surely the same shimmering
blue and gold birds
lapping insects from the air.
And the rocks,
especially the one
where I contemplated
for an hour or more
what I would say.
But what did I say?
And who did I say it to?
The spongy grass,
turtles basking on a log,
bloodroot, swamp candles…
there’s no secrets from my memory.
But I’ve this scenery
and where’s the other character,
what happened to the dialog?
At least I got the spot right.
And I remember myself
if no one else.
And even if I don’t know
what I said,
I’m sure I said it.
But what was her response?
And why does the landscape say it better?
WHAT WON’T FIT ON A POSTCARD
What a view.
So close to the ocean
I can see the people in swimming,
even lip-read them saying,
“What a gorgeous day.”
I’ll be in to join them later.
Salt in my ears, nose, throat,
just the way I like it.
When I’m not tanning that is.
And what about the staff.
They’re like servants with smiles.
My wish may never get over
not being their command.
The food, of course,
is tropical and delicious.
And there’s always more where
that came from.
I’ve been a frequent visitor to the exercise room.
No extra pound
leaves that sweaty place unwasted.
And what a great room.
Plenty of space to spread my stuff.
Clean enough to pass
an aunt’s inspection.
And the bed so soft
I may sleep away my vacation.
But then there’s the nights.
Why must there be the nights.
Ocean goes invisible on me.
No water. No sun.
At the dinner table,
My plate is taken away
for the very last time.
The staff go with it.
Back to my room, so big, so empty.
So clean. Not a trace of life.
The bed’s comfy
so why can’t I sleep.
Too bad the exercise room is closed.
These pounds will be
with me until morning.
Nothing else will.
REGARDING THE FOURTEEN YEAR OLD POET
By then the routine was firmly fixed:
disappointment in love, rush home, write poem.
Misery was all it needed for the words to lay on thick.
And every one the same: suicide note plus metaphors.
It was early teens: shave twice a month, rock
and roll, “Catcher In The Rye”, moon over Diane.
And impractical: Couldn’t drive. No money.
Not ugly as sin but homely as minor transgressions.
So sloppy poetry it had to be. And rhymed like Wordsworth.
I was thankful her name was Diane (can, man, ban, ran) and not Joanna.
And the poems still exist. Otherwise how would I know
her name was Diane. Yellow paper. Typewriter with a fuzzy “D”.
So this is how it begins. Pain. Words. Thirteen year old girl
who’d be fifty now if she’s not dead. But I excuse myself.
Hell, I was only fourteen, shave twice a month, rock
and roll, “Catcher In The Rye”, moon over Diane. And poetry.
It gets no better. Over time, I improved enough to write
when I was happy. And you don’t know how sad that makes me.
SEE EUROPE OR DRINK
1 wanted Venice of the Doges Palace
but my guide showed me to a rat-infested room
overlooking a knave’s used car court-yard.
Canals like veins lured me
but sewers like thoughts was what the menu oozed.
No gondolier, merely me in a basement bar
sailing off into the damaged sunlight
in a leaky boat of cheap wine
and conversation convalescing
from a bout of lousy Italian..
Tourist I thought I was
but instead an out-take from “Don’t Look Now’,
a cutting on an unswept floor.
St Mark’s Cathedral, anyone?
The closest I came was a postcard
I picked out of a puddle,
soggy, muddy, its crosses snapped, its saints drowned.
See the Bridge of Sighs while you’re there, they told me,
I partook of many rusty iron bridges,
and a burp or two that could have been sighs
in their wildest dreams
but nothing in me made the connection.
So, there I was, boarded up
in some unholy dive,
with weak, sickly companions,
and a taste for emaciation,
discussing dream movies where
Mario Bava sends Umberto D
to the slaughterhouse,
castrates the bicycle thief
I saw the pitted face of London,
the mildewed underwear of Paris,
the smog-laced eyes of Athens,
the rotted cab backseats of Rome,
and finally, the unwashed underarm of Venice
that no Titian ever laid a brush to,
no Adriatic ever washed its scales.
God, the depths you sink to
when you never leave home.
Australian born poet, works as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Poem, Spindrift, Prism International and the horror anthology, “What Fears Become”with work upcoming in Potomac Review, Hurricane Review and Pinyon.