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
The sands are full
of the dead arent they.
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.
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,
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.
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,
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.
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.
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,
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.
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—
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—
my body lightens, rises