John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and the anthology, No Achilles with work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Gargoyle, Coal City Review and Nebo
LITTLE JOHNNY'S GOT THE BLUES
It's almost midnight.
It's quiet out
but for an oak branch
that taps upon his bedroom window.
From the small radio
plugged to his ear,
a disc jockey, three states away,
spins old southern blues records,
rough and raw, whiskey-stained,
to a white kid in the upper Midwest.
His father's playing poker with his buddies.
His mother's drunk on the couch.
Theirs is a strung out kind of blues.
Not three chords and a growl.
More red faces and raised voices.
Mississippi John Hurt is wailing
"Spike Driver Blues."
In the pain of that leather throat,
a railroad's being built
on the backs of poor black men.
That sounds nothing like
the ache from a belt across the legs...
until, by the second verse, it does.
Nightfall, I'm back
from a jaunt through
the land of the grizzly.
woods have turned black,
mountains melted into sky.
I made noise the whole way
so the bears knew that I was coming.
I saw one in the distance,
drinking at a pond.
I did not go in that direction.
As much as I love nature,
I'm aware that, being human
bestows on me a mental superiority
but not a physical one.
Should one of those great creatures
decide to take me on,
what chance has acuity
against rapacious claws, sharp teeth.
I'm back at my den
turn on all lights,
report to the kitchen
where with a cut of meat,
a slice of bread,
locked doors and windows,
I'm returned temporarily
to the top of the food chain.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and the anthology, No Achilles with work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Gargoyle, Coal City Review and Nebo.
A CHILD SHORT-CHANGED ON BODIES OF WATER by John Grey
It's nothing special,
about as small in size
as a bakery parking lot.
And, to be honest,
it's hardly a gem of sparkling waters,
merely a blob of drowned weeds.
It's as unremarkable as
the kids I went to school with
and yet, from that ordinary bunch,
emerged my closest friends.
No one ever wasted a moment fishing here.
And it's certainly no swimming hole.
The best you can do is dip your fingers,
maybe disturb the muddy bottom a little.
Or scoop up tadpoles for a brief life in ajar.
Not even nostalgia can come to its aid.
You'd think that, removed by years,
it would grow in stature,
purify, stock itself with trout.
But it's been a struggle for time.
And my memory has no wish to contradict
it was the only pond we had
so we had to make the most of it.
But it couldn't rise to the occasion.
become a mighty river
for warring tribes
or the Pacific Ocean for our navy games.
I envy those
who grew up near real lakes,
who could marvel at the circumference, the depths,
without resorting to imagination.
Yes, they do darkly color their reminiscing
with tales of kids drowning.
A small price to pay for all that coming up for air.
LUNCH WITH KATE by John Grey
Kate leaves room
beside her on a bench.
The quick controlled sashay
of her slim body across the seat,
the squeezing of her arms
tight to her sides,
allows me to sit
without our thighs quite touching.
I still slide my way
in tiny increments to make that
microscopic gap between us,
a statement in itself.
Her perfume however is far from shy.
It's in my nostrils,
is sweet and circles topics
like the kids playing catch
on the distant greensward
or hand-locked lovers
drifting by us
as they stroll the park trails.
The fun, the seriousness,
are like our bodies,
putting up nervous barriers
even as they will themselves
to intertwine a little.
It's a break from work
and we eat our lunch together.
Crumbs drop within
easy reach of pigeons.
Hints follow suit
but without a beak to snare them.
We are not in love
but there's a definite liking there.
Bread in teeth, water bottle at the ready,
pants and dress separated by a thread,
glances shared between face and meadow,
not forgetting birds cooing
around our shoes -
on a warm midday in the park,
this is what attraction has to work with.