My third church today

The pastor is sermonizing,

the congregation praying,

in a tongue foreign to me.

 

I have a map in my hand.

And a phone for snapping pictures.

I’m a tourist.

The sign on the door says,

as far as my limited

knowledge of the local dialect can decipher,

“All may enter but please respect

your fellow worshipers”

 

They ignore my presence,

respectfully.

I file them under local color,

deferentially.

 

By John Grey

 

 

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Don’t

Look both ways when crossing a street.

In fact, don’t cross streets at all

unless I’m with you.

Don’t approach wild animals.

They could be rabid.

Don’t pick up bugs or snakes.

Despite the temptation,

don’t chase butterflies.

They could lead you to bees and wasps.

Step carefully on polished floors and in tubs.

Grip the handrail when descending stairs.

Don’t talk to strangers.

Don’t even go near them.

And remember,

just because a man is old

that doesn’t make him your grandfather. Continue reading “Don’t”

Extended families

She now has a third parent

by the name of Ritalin.

Unlike her mother and father,

it helps put her toys away

 

in the right boxes.

Even her thoughts,

those sometimes more willful toys,

find the right home

 

when no longer needed.

Her parents back off,

let the newcomer succeed

where they feel they’ve failed.

 

She seems nervier now, though.

And eats less than ever.

So her mother and father

continue to worry about the child.

 

The third parent

has a sister called Valium.

She too is

available for parenting.

 

By John Grey

 

 

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The twilight letter

(Inspired by a letter to Susan Gardener, page

328 of the book “A wild perfection”

selected letters of James Wright)

 

James sat in a gray frame house,

at the edge of New Concord.

Writing a letter during twilight,

which someone chose to hoard.

He talks of a funeral attendee,

in this twilight letter he writes.

He talks of the Hindu god Siva,

as daylight turns to night.

On the peak of the Himalayas,

Siva leaps into a form of fire,

and as James finishes the letter,

he gets ready to retire.

He wrote it on Christmas Eve,

of the year nineteen-sixty-four.

In Santa he doesn’t believe,

yet Siva all the more.

His letters reveal the poet’s mind,

only his letters are left behind.

 

By Mark Hudson

 

 

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Prison writing class

He got twenty-five years

for killing some guy in a road rage.

The other car cut him off.

So he reached for his gun and fired.

 

In this class, he has the opportunity.

more than that, the encouragement

to put his feelings down on paper.

So he writes one story about this guy

 

who owns every lane on every road.

And another where a killer can’t sleep

because his regret, his conscience,

keeps him awake.

 

And then a third where a punk

is sentenced to half a lifetime in prison,

until creative writing is offered

and he signs up.

 

He writes in such a rush,

in a bid to bring his life up the moment.

Then he can start on the tale where

this prisoner, so long on the concrete block,

 

is finally paroled, steps out into

the unfamiliar bright clear air.

He so wants it to have a happy ending.

His instructor’s holding out for one

 

that satisfies what’s come before.

 

 

By John Grey

 

 

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The lazy man writes

Sure tomorrow is coming and uncharted

but it doesn’t allow for my damaged willpower.

At least, when it comes to these sagging bones,

it is aware but just can’t bother to tell.

 

Sure I plan to do as many things as are possible

but this body will not have anything to do with that.

Then I slump down with this shapeless couch

where we can break all of our promises together

 

I’m at home alone, away from those

who would test my vows repeatedly,

who would attempt to program me

into doing something useful with my time.

 

My failures once kept me awake but no longer do.

What they lack in quality, they gain in overall climate.

So sleep has become this dry run for death.

It is totally worthless as a source for new dreams.

 

I had such great plans when I was young.

I was going to be an astronaut and a movie star.

I grew up at a time when anything was possible.

It’s a great relief that now nothing is.

 

By John Grey

 

 

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Bobbing

Ocean

I’m bobbing in blue waters,

legs kicking below,

arms paddling in place,

nostrils sucking up the salty air.

This is what it’s like to live alone.

I can choose to stay out here,

far from shore,

for as long as I like.

Or I can swim back to shore,

join the mob on the beach,

none of whom know me.

 

Eventually, it’s back to my rooms.

Here, my solitude is tested.

I’ve no ocean swell to lift me,

no warmth and light to back me up.

If I look around, there’s nobody there.

If I speak, I get no response.

Would I appreciate a pair of lips

pressing to mine?

How about a head to flop atop my shoulder?

At the beach,

there are so many ways to have a good time.

In my apartment.

I’d be happy if there was one.

I’ve been in those waters for the past year or so.

I’m still bobbing.

 

By John Grey

 

 

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Our Wakeup Call

Sheets

Waking facing each other in identical posture.

Six o’clock.

Off comes the heavy armor of sleep.

In this light,

we’re familiarly depicted.

A safe passage is assured.

 

Outside, the world is sprouting vegetation,

linking renewal

to the increase of energy in our bodies,

that not even parallel yawns

can dissipate.

 

We’re revving.

We’re reflective.

A little revered.

Somewhat propitiated.

Your hand drifts across the sheets between.

I take back yesterday’s touch,

make it the official beginning of today’s.

 

Always this pleasing balance

of body temperature and passion,

comfort and underlying order.

It doesn’t seem much

but it’s everything.

We’ve both been alone in the past.

We revel in the corrective of together.

 

By John Grey

 

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