Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Hero’ and other poems by John Grey

By: John Grey


Not that I think one is required
hut if you do feel the need
then I am available.
But I’m warning you,
my past efforts have been failures.

Your mother, remember her,
said something like, “Hero, my ass.”
Something to do
with the lowliness of my job
and the kind of lifestyle
her dreams were accustomed to.

And your older brother
had to befriend a kid
whose father played football in college.
My limp backyard passes to the boy
didn’t measure up.

Same with your sister.
Her school buddy’s parents
bought her a branch new Beemer
for somehow graduating college.
All I could come up with
was a peck on the cheek.

So, like I said,
if sports stars don’t do it for you
and there’s no applicable rock gods
or even authors – though who
reads books any more.
Or politicians. Or soldiers.
Of famous names from the past.
Or your mother- wherever she maybe.
Or your brother. Or your sister.

Then let me tell you how I changed a tire in the rain
on that deserted roadway in the middle of the night.
You were asleep in the back seat of the ear at the time.
So keep on sleeping
and I’ll tell you some more.



For whom or what she was named
we do not know,
whether a mountain her father climbed
or a flower her mother bred,
whether the appearance
of glassy glint distance in her eyes
or the dispersal of odd colors
throughout her cheeks.
There’s been as many theories
as she’s had days alive.
All we know is
it rhymes with dolomite
but sounds like candlelight.
There are three syllables
but only two when spoken
with a clipped accent.
She’s always said that she’d prefer it
had her parents named her Elizabeth.
That’s what she answers to.
But this other is why,
even at her age,
we can’t help wondering.



You faked your own death
by smashing your cell phone,
packing your few belongings,
moving to South America,

You and your guitar
lived in the mountains,
took a page out of the conquistadors,
with inflexible tongue,
slaughtered the language of the tribes.

But, for all your might,
you were no folk hero,
could never make that breakthrough
from out-of-tune singer
to man of the people.

You took a train into the heights,
a song for every slow and stumbling mile,
but the thin air got you
before the other passengers
received your message.
A small boy, at least,
left the train with his mother
at some unnamed jungle stop,
still humming your tunes.
The rest just sat and stared
as your face grew pale
and you constantly twisted
the ends of your shoulder-length hair

For the rest of your life,
you bummed around the villages,
having your guitar stolen,
losing your voice,
eating scraps from poor tables
or chancing the fruit of the forest.

Weak and tired, you fell, one day,
from a mile-high Andean cliff.

You faked your own death
by making it real at last.

So it must be true.
Though not in person.
Second or third hand,
so it still could be a lie.

But it sounded so plausible.
And that was the point, wasn’t it.
If it could be true,
then it must be.

But something nagged at her.
Like how she saw herself.
What she got a wind of
didn’t connect with that.

So when she heard it a fifth time,
she turned on the speaker,
and declared,
“That is not so.”

Her response never got back
to where the story originated.
But it came from her belief,
that exception to every rumor.



I admire the way ants get things done,
even starlings, the way they started
out in New York City with almost nothing
and now own many a town, farm and field.

Then there are the sounds:
chack, chek-chek, burry tweoo toowee –
none found in any dictionary.
Plus the life cycle of the mayfly

and whatever else is small enough
to get away with cruising the lanes
of the lower air.
Like the jewelwing, buzzing the stream

with an oscillation of metallic green wings.
From treetops to ground, I hear the cry
of katy-did, katy-didn’t while
a spittle-big froths up on a leaf.

My excursion takes me
still within sight of my home.
The neighborhood’s more built up than ever
but nature hasn’t lost its touch.

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