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Six Poems by John Grey


Obituaries of The Imagination

A tide is going out.

A plastic bucket rolls 

out of the foam.

I imagine the boy

was dragged in

by the receding waters,

He and his castle are no more.

Only this bright yellow 

implement survives.

The sands are full

of the dead arent they.

Every shell, 

the site of murder.

Each crab carapace,

an unseemly death.

Even the driftwood.

Who knows how many sailors

went down with the ship.

But then a young child

comes racing along the shore

with a bright yellow 

plastic spade clutched in his hand,

grabs the bucket, 

runs back up the beach

to his waiting parents.

I killed the boy.

But then I brought him back to life.

This time, I used the bucket

Mostly, I make do with words.

What's That Old Woman Doing Out There?

A woman is declared crazy

for taking a stroll on a wet windy day,

her grandkids trailing behind her,

gate-crashing every puddle,

heads, thick mounds of matted hair,

and mud up to their knees.

Better she stay inside, they reckon,

with a dead fowl in her hand.

Or in her bedroom,

settling into some infirm state,

while her wrinkles take the opportunity

to deepen and spread.

Some even insist, these women

should be housed in a secluded home, 

where breathing's merely an option

and low voices, the closest any come to screaming.

But she's out there now,

not seeking shelter.

at least, not if the song on her lips

has anything to do with it.

And the kids cant keep up.

They've energy enough

but their crazies have barely begun.


Leaving school,

I loaded up on independence.

Longed to leave home.

Become a city dweller.

To my parents,

the city was, at best, a monster,

at worst, oblivion.

My father would plow through reasons why

I'd never make good there.

My mother merely cried.

But I was ready to step free

from small town life,

to be a flick of ash in the big smoke.

It's all those books of his, 

my parents figured.

Thats where he gets these big ideas.

But not big really.

At least, not overwhelming.

I made my own necessary arrangements

simple as they were,

became just what I imagined, 

ordinary, irrelevant,

with an occasional dream, a vision.

Depending on myself made itself clear.

And there were nights when

I braved the loneliness

like it was an enemy attack.

But not once 

did I set my sights homeward.

And now I work, pay rent, feed myself,

keep solid with reality.

There are faces that grow familiar,

events that I partake in.

My parents always reckoned

they could read me like a book,

But not the books I'm reading now.

Maybe not the books I'm reading ever.


Mae's Donuts

It's three a.m.

and no one's here for the donuts.

The same raspberry-filled and jelly sticks

have been hunkered down

in their tray for hours.

Coffees the real donut,

pot after pot of tar-colored gook,

just the thing for grizzled men, 

gray-faced women,

who join unwitting forces 

in a bid to stay awake,

suck down hot Java 

like popping speed.

Conversations as stale

as the donuts

and much of it is directed at

people who arent here.

I'm up at the counter, sipping caffeine,

the outside as black as what I'm drinking,

and I'm starting to feel

as grizzled and gray-faced as the rest of them.

I glance from one to the next,

not the company I'd wish for,

but I didnt come in here to wish.

The unshaven guy next to me

looks up through bloodshot eyes,

pries open a toothless mouth,

with a raspy "haven't seen you here before."

He makes it sound like he

expects to see me here again.


I'm doing seventy on the highway

but it feels like twenty.

The flatter, the straighter, the roadway,

the more time takes time out

to nurse me like a mother does a child,

cocoon me from scenery,

and isolate my vehicle from all other traffic,

even the eighteen-wheeler 

that's just about to pounce on my rear-end.

Could you slow down a little, says my wife.

Slow down?

She doesnt understand.

Do that and we'd be going backwards.

Yesterday would be today.

The horizon, our current location.

The eighteen-wheeler pulls into the passing lane,

zooms right by me,

rattles my car like a thunderclap.

I grip tight to the wheel.

Time shakes its fist.

Trailer Park

In the trailer park,

land of one thousand dashed hopes,

a man wearing nothing but a towel

stumbles toward the showers

Don't look, screams my mother.

I peek through two fingers.

But I am enriched,

free from chasing dreams,

comforted by the usual place,

the common faces,

recourse to conversation,

surprising grace,

and even a little love.

We've got street musicians,

waitresses, some guys who

can spend all day under a car hood.

Sure there's anguish

when some guy gets laid off.

And conceit

when the girl next door

dolls herself up for Saturday night.

But hurts are fixed easily enough.

And that same girl comes home crying

and we're sweet,

And there's always the man

who threatens to reveal

his grotesque body to one and all—

one glance,

the nearest we have to forbidden fruit.

Lovely and unimpeachable,

hot and cold, distraught and calm—

close my eyes

and it becomes no earlier or later—

lie down,

my body lightens, rises


Deep, thought- provoking and with astounding imagery

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