John Grey

THE MIDNIGHT CELEBRATION

I’d rather it wasn’t the clock
that drinks with me.
I revile its stories, its jokes.
What do I care about the billions of years
it can go back
and the billions forward.
And it’s such a smarmy accent,
that “tick, tick, tick.”

But the clock it is,
on the wall, dresser,
cable box, shiny numbers
peering out of stove and microwave.

If I had my way,
my drinking companions would be
the youth turned twenty-one,
proudly showing everyone his license.
The young gun of thirty,
money in his pocket,
vice presidency in the bag.
Even the beer-gutted forty-year-old,
discussing big plans over imported ale.

It’s almost midnight,
the flat froth of another deadly day.
One bottle is finished,
another stakes out my thirst.
This isn’t the party I had planned.
I invited the times of my life
but time of year showed up instead.

WORK OUT

Hamper overflowing.
More clothes piled up at the end of the bed.
I’m in the cellar on the elliptical,
walking a mile or so in one place,

Dishes piled up in the sink,
the house is on its own.
But the man must trim those abs,
shrink that gut,
or everything falls apart.
When was the last time
the carpet saw a vacuum cleaner?
Dust lasts longer around here than calories.
My fitness machine squeaks
like tortured mice.

Windows, mirrors, lack for
a good arm wrestle with a wet cloth.
But I see myself in the bathroom scales.
I look out through how healthy I feel.
The roof is leaking.
I could be up there fixing it.
But if I’m to avoid hard work,
I first must have the strength.

ANATOMY OF A HUG

The wave’s motion.
We are moving.
Through the door in the morning.
These floors, so different from at night.
Sway with light like sown fields.
Gradually goes the soot-discharging fishing boat.
Your body leans on me for comfort.
With a mysterious whisper, I lean on you.

Today, when we clench hands,
tides roll in, those hands open up,
love is crystallized sand and grafted together. 
Almost dull but blood flows freely.

Dreaming is easy.
Crossing over into vision is not.
A daybreak frontier
when it pays to hold our breath.
Knowing is anticipation.
Acting, a risky plunge.
A naked coastline
reinforces our dependence.

When love and sea
share the tumult inside us,
a single surge
nudges our way forward.
This startling landscape.
This water. Our fear.
This earth. Our support.
Here in the harbor, I hold you inside me.
Clean anchor
where all else pulls away.

BOY

September,
a slow drift from light and heat,
apples peaking,
trees giving up the green.
your boy turns 21.

lie’s a man
just as the planet
turns its back
on its own manhood,
no longer robust and clear
but reflective,
warm when the sun’s upon it,
but chilly come dark.

He’s out with his friends.
in a bar, ordering his first legal beer.
He’ll slay out later than the moon.
There’ll be women with
more claim on him than you.

Luckily, there’s always winter.
You’ll see more of him then,
his freedom not quite warm enough
as the usual bitter winds,
blinding drifts,
driving him indoors.

For a time, an old dead planet
can’t compete with your contemporaneous fire.
Poor mother flame –
he’ll be yours again
but seasonal.  

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT

Let us walk forty years in the desert,
heat-struck, devastated,
forgetting to bring water.
forgetting who we are,
stumbling about
like coked-up porn queen
and impotent actor.

It gets no emptier –
just you and me,
a rattlesnake,
rat, lizard, nothing cute –
a cheap motel of a landscape,
a greasy fast-food meal
pecked apart by vultures.

We’re either bored or arguing.
So let’s reroute our lives.

Civilization just doesn’t go with our obsessions.
Too much to drink. To flush.
To rinse away dirt sins.
We need to be where it’s barren and defeating,
deadly in its indifference.
Occasionally, we’ll come across a bullock skull
from a rancher’s dream inverted.
That bone could be the two of us –
crumbling and healing.

A LESSON IN BIOLOGY

This velvet plant
venerates its stalk, its flowers,
casts off a spore to spread the word –

children skim its seed
from the fishpond –

wind thrashes it this way, that way,
from willow to mimosa –

it’s a mast with lantern
driving through November
to the unfriendly house –

faster, faster, ever more desperate,
stringing together moment and lives and fears –

a drop of dew on green apple
of breath on almonds and cheese –

then the picnic where
the ancient diva
adorns herself
with the succulent triple choker,
girdling her fleshy throne
more beautiful
for the cracks in her skin –

oh the sun – it is a jewel
she can almost wear on her finger –

meanwhile, a dream
frets itself to ruin –
too brittle for these atmospheres,
while the past she hordes like a delicate jade –

this scene suggests a dying light,
and a woman preciously inlaid.

~~~

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest book, Leaves On Pages is available through Amazon. This is John’s second feature on The Short of It.

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