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  John Grey

Published on: 8/2/2012
Lothario in the Diner

Don't look now
but I believe that I just wounded that waitress.
The grimace gives her away.

I asked her to come to New York with me.
Damned if I know why.
Random shooting so to speak.

It must have been her long blonde hair
or something
but, while she was pouring coffee,
I was painting targets
on her light blue apron.
And kapow, kapow.

New York. New York.
All that noise.
Who'd hear the gun fired.

But she just snaps,
"The cheek"
and I go back to playing
in the sugar bowl.

Even from such unpromising beginnings though,
a weapon can be forged.

She brings the eggs and bacon.
I load up and not just in my mouth.

She's probably divorced
with a kid at home,
barely getting by.

You'd think she'd be happy
with any offer that came her way.
Even if she bleeds from it.

She can't fool me.
Look at those bullet holes.
Okay, so they're coffee stains.
But I put them there.

Published on: 8/2/2012
Holding Pattern

I found a photograph
in a trunk in the attic,
so pallid and faded,
the blotches above the throats
could barely pass for faces.
These were ancestors, washed-out,
sepia flecks, as insubstantial as ghosts.
But I knew by the hands
pressed tight against her dress,
the seated one was grandmother.
And no question, the dark sleeves,
the arms hung long and low,
grandfather standing stoic at her side.
The child as barely there,
a thread of jacket, a ruffle for a neck,
two shoes melting like wax.
It was my father, four years old.
It was my father, clutching something
in faint, blurred fingers.
Faint, blurred fingers ...
that's how I'm held now.

Published on: 8/2/2012
Life Lines

It's a line.
I'd recognize it anywhere.
I latch onto the back of it,
hope that it moves,
that other people fall in behind me
so I won't be, eternally,
the idiot at the back.

It's for fast food.
It's for tickets to a show.
Or a book signing.
Or a ride at Disneyworld.

People strike up
conversations with strangers.
Kids jump up and down
like they need to pee.
A woman complains
that's she's been in it
for an hour.
Another says,
"That's nothing,
I've been here for days."

Sometimes, I see a line
and I get on the end.
Once it was for an Aerosmith store appearance
and I hate Aerosmith.
Another time, it was at the registry.
I finally reached the head
of that long and winding people snake.
just so I could be told,
"Sorry. This is License Renewal."

My philosophy teacher argues
that life itself is this long line.
We're born at the back.
If we're lucky, we prosper in the middle.
Finally though, we get where we've been
going all along - death.
Or maybe License Renewal.

Published on: 5/11/2010
The City Ocean

The city rolls up to the suburbs like ocean does sand.
Everyone's seated at the dinner table, only the young aware
the tide is rolling in. They hear strange seductive waters wash
against the window. They see light glow fire from the depths
of lovely darkness. Mother passes the salad bowl. Father
cuts the ham. They believe they're living far above the shore.
But their daughter's seventeen, dreaming of her other sea-going lives.
The son's a year younger but pounding breakers
lead his thoughts into the mesmerizing foam.
The ocean is demanding, cajoling, insistent.
The house holds steady but the home springs leaks.

Published on: 5/11/2010
The House, After Her Death

At seventeen, my mother played tennis.
They say a faded picture exists of her in white dress and blouse,

racket raised above her head, the ball floating
in space inches from fierce contact.

There's even a yellow piece of paper somewhere
that proudly proclaims her school champion, district runner-up.

My Aunt says, she was awarded a cup, fake silver to be sure,
but with her name engraved. No one knows what happened to it.

I've never found that picture, nor the piece of paper,
despite the rummaging I've done through drawers and attic trunk.

The cup may as well be the Holy Grail. And I am surely no Sir Galahad.
My seventeen year old mother is lost to me, it seems.

The fine sportswoman lobbed and volleyed and aced
on other courts than these drab rooms. They smell of lavender water,

not sweat. There's pill bottles, a cane, signs of weakness,
not of fast serves, fancy footwork at the net.

Family's here to divide up the spoils, a microwave oven, some jewelry.
All I ask is for the trim, all-conquering athlete,

the lithe young woman, at an age when she was tough to beat.
Death refuses. It piles up coffee cups in the sink, each one bereft of victories.

Published on: 1/25/2010

Calendar turns to months of unfettered sarcasm:
bright colors of the dead, the ear's chilly ache,
stifled song of sparrows trapped in their own throats.
Mama's heavy as houses, more birth brewing in her gut.
Blustery wind spins humming oak spokes.
Child-memories are bestowed on pale leaves,
temporary triumphs of skittering hares.
Ice puddles are skimmed by dying dragonflies.
Old women wrapped and park benched,
sit stiff and sour as dogs in a Chinese temple.
Ancient men nod off in their jackets,
skulls nibbling on bony shoulders.
Eyes can't let go their stone-hard silence.
Breath makes cloud of intermittent tongues.
I sit beside the fire, dragon's breath on my neck.
Flames are the show. My heart sways in the aisles
Drizzle turns the corner into snow.
Crystals disperse their perpetual light.
Soon, there's nothing but dimming of shared history,
dark tracks of the crows

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