JOHN GREY - POEMS
ONE SENSE AT A TIME
By the pond
tiny white bells
of highbush blueberry
give way to
dusted whitish fruit
the elder is in bloom
clusters of tiny purplish blackness
painted turtles on stones
a skipper flutters
a mustard white
floating cress stems
in all directions
the eye’s taken care of
and that’s not even
taking into account
Nothing in the world is more dead than this.
A truce, sun braiding mangrove and water,
matter composing, decomposing,
surely all was green once,
this festering, scummy scene
like a brown bedpan.
full of mystery that stands its shifting ground.
God knows what we’re doing here.
Frog-croak in our ears. Nerves slithering like copperheads.
Such a humorless place, trunks gray,
distances dead, flat and unmoving, no relief,
indifferent to what the blistering sun can do.
Here is a history of what is seemingly unchanged.
as if this is the way it has to be,
day after day, festering in the same steam,
only the vines with the appetite for strangling
the groins of stark cedars.
The blooms are falsehood. They stink like corpses.
Buzzards gather sticks for the only nest that matters.
We pass by ageless, mossy stumps.
This is not the eternity we covet.
We can see but we can’t know.
Not with so much going on beneath us,
schooled in grotesque life-cycles,
harsh spines, fetid flesh, impaling pikes, knots of reeds,
the bubble of a gator’s breath.
The landscape is the enemy filed under hard fear.
We finally emerge grisly and slimed,
dank and dreary on some floating island.
We haven't seen the rumored woodpecker we hoped to watch.
Instead we imagine zombies
except they're only wood
that dusk leaves hacked to pieces.
Nothing else to hope for.
Our rarity doesn’t show.
But we still can’t admit its blameless death.
We sit and sniff the rancid hours.
The faith we keep fools no one.
Sun going down,
time to come in from the fields,
Anna grabs a few wildflowers,
a handful of reeds,
so the day won't be lost forever.
The prettiest, she'll wear in her hair.
The rest, a vase will placate
with a cupful of water.
Old women watch from their porches.
They spin, they knit, for practical purposes.
Not for them the mad-meadows,
the giddy warm,
that dandelion light.
They're as sensible
as the aches in bones.
Nature is not human nature, after all.
They prefer the darkness,
when faces disappear
and all are equal,
the young, the old,
the beautiful, the homely.
They don't take pleasure
in the lifting of a toe,
the waving of hands,
the spin of a torso,
the How of hair out from the throat.
A heart is not a thing
to toss up in the air,
catch before it hits the ground,
to be grasped to the chest,
blessed and breathed on.
If it's to be comforted at all,
it must be by the head.
And though there can be flowers,
they must be grown in their own garden,
not stolen from the garden of the Lord.
how they mock with their madness.
they have not the wisdom to grow old.
they are from a race of dreams
and it's not time to sleep yet.
THE TORNADO SPEAKS
Imagine an explosion in a used car lot.
And a stone bank building ripped from its foundations.
A cantilever bridge spun like a drunken ballerina.
There’s nothing modest about my ambitions.
How about flesh ripping from frame.
A large raspberry blown at the skeleton exposed.
A flying building the size of the Taj Mahal.
And all your wheat fields seeded in reverse.
I’m as angry as ten billion quarreling husbands and wives.
And I’ve got air inside me that could strangle you with oxygen.
You may think of me as no more than some Faultline in the weather.
But I am the real monster. Your fairytales lied.
TAKING BACK THE BRIDGE
One simple step will do.
One foot just beyond the safety of the bank,
onto the concrete walk-way.
The surface won’t crack.
The spans will hold firm
and the cables not snap.
You can walk across,
slow or quick,
thoughtful or free
of any thinking.
And you can stop in the middle,
look forward, look back,
even look down.
And you can stay there,
while other pedestrians pass
and the traffic does the same.
You can tell yourself,
“This is where he jumped.”
But there’s no reason
you should do the same.
I’d suggest going on then,
to the other side.
Catch your breath
or whatever else needs catching.
And then retrace your steps
all the way back to your starting point.
By the time, you’re done,
the bridge will be nothing
more than a bridge.
And you’ll be who you were
some time ago.