Here You Are
takes a lot out of the world
you’re being born into.
Some must wash the blood off their hands.
A few are forced into loving
miniature versions of themselves.
With every new moment,
you’ve been alive long enough
to suckle a breast,
grip a finger,
cry over how incomplete you feel,
breathe whatever air
is tricked into coming near you.
And then those moments accumulate,
fuse into chains
that others are compelled to wear.
You drool, flutter eyes,
roll about on your fleshy rear end,
and your victims never recover.
And being born
puts those already living on notice.
Their possessions won’t survive the process.
Their focus is indentured to the flush of your cheeks.
you’ll say their names.
And then those names are yours.
They’ll never get them back.
Nothing to Be Said
Two kids found the body, a local eccentric,
fat, yellow-skinned, wedged between rocks,
the guy they called Jacko or Pisspot,
the crazy loon everyone avoided.
They were negotiating carefully
that part of the river bank,
on the way to their favorite fishing spot,
rods and creels in hand.
What they remember is the
bloated eyes staring up at them,
and the mouth open
as if he was about to speak.
He salivated over beef sides
in butcher’s windows
but lived on the likes of found cans of tuna fish
He was just an old man
begging for mouthfuls,
struggling to button a forlorn coat
as he blew across the sidewalk.
He was jealous of the woman
who could waste her money on candles
even as she grumbled her way down the street,
complaining of rheumatism.
She’d no doubt bought soap.
It’d been months since he’d felt
the touch of anything cleansing on his skin.
He vowed, if an angel ever dropped in
for a visit, he’d promise him anything
in exchange for a hot shower
and a change of underwear.
In spring, he almost drowned in a flash flood.
In summer, the life near sweated out of him.
Somehow, he survived
despite the nuns who tried to save his soul
and the cop who moved him along.
He even got mugged once.
He took it as a compliment.
As if someone thought he had anything worth stealing.
He saw himself in a mirror from time to time
and shuddered. A dim alley was his bedroom.
A nephew went looking for him once
but had no luck.
His mother haunted him.
He could feel his father looking over his shoulder.
Any coin discovered on the ground
soon felt the clutch of his fingers.
The first flakes of snow
were like the guard and padre
showing up in a condemned man’s cell.
The warm had this habit
of going out of this world.
He had this dream where he went with it.
Someone left the front door unlocked.
Guy ran up the stairs, found his Missy
in bed with another man,
blew his head off with a shot gun.
Another’s been picking cotton all day,
with bent back and sun-scarred face.
A third met the devil through the demon drink.
A fourth can’t stay out of the gambling den.
A fifth finds his only pleasure
with the ladies of the night.
If it wasn’t for me and my second-hand guitar,
you’d know none of this.
© John Grey
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review.