Winter 2008, Volume 24.2
John Grey is an Australian born poet, playwright and musician. His latest book is What Else Is There from Main Street Rag. His work has recently appeared in The English Journal, The Pedestal, Pearl and the Journal of the American Medical Association.
A Poet of the Farmyard
Livestock defy poetry.
Cows lower their head
like beauty never does.
They munch on grass,
far from meaning.
And pigs may squabble
and play together
just like family
but they dine on mud
and where’s the common ground
Sure, a colt sometimes
slips its sedate chains
and leaps and kicks
and frolics and gallops
about the paddock.
But a poet is not always there
Just the mare, one eye cocked
the other on the hay
she’s feasting on.
And she hasn’t written
a thing in years.
Righting a Raft
There’s this myth
that it was our entire family
that tied ropes around
that capsized raft,
knotting figure eights
to the frame’s downstream side.
But no, it was just me
and a few of my outdoor friends.
The story goes that my mother,
sisters and I struggled back
into the water, pulled hard
against the rocking flow,
while my father dug in
behind us, like a rock
in whirlpool foam.
But it was just buddies who
fooled the current into righting it.
What do you want me to say?
That every tough job we licked
together just because we lived
under one roof?
No, the confinement, the closeness,
worked against us.
Harmony, everyone doing our bit...
tell that to the wall-cracks,
the tear-stained pillows.
There’s another myth
that our familiarity, our hostilities,
tipped the damn water-craft over
in the first place.
Now that I can believe.
Unlike the Home Where I was Raised
How neat everything is, like no one lives here.
No dirt. No dust. Nothing crumpled. Look at
the beds. Not a crease or sheet edge showing. There’s
no such thing as sleep apparently. And not one stain
in kitchen sink, on cabinet. How orderly the world
would be if nobody ate. Her eyes beam. She’s
proud of floors that deny there ever was a human footprint.
But you assure me, people were actually raised in this house.
You, your sister, for two. Maybe you slept outside
beneath the rose petals. And did you dine on tree
bark? Did aphids tuck you in at night? No, you tell
me, what I’m looking at is a woman’s promise to
herself. The last one finally left! Long live no one!
We sit at the edge of a covered sofa. She sets our
coffee on coasters wide as frisbees. When muffins crumble
in our fingers, it’s as if the world is doing the same.
A vacuum cleaner stands by. We are the villains of
the piece. Hoover’s her Young Lochinvar. "She
really did love us," you say, more to yourself than
to me. "She changed our diapers, wiped our muddy
faces." As we leave, her lips brush your cheeks.
Not to plant a kiss but to mop up an old one.