Literary Yard

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‘Clearing up’ and other poems by John Grey

By John Grey


seven years married,
what have you done with the violence,
the man unsure,
there are just your eyes for evidence
and they that travel south
when he looks from the east
and. of course, the pieces of the chair

is the violence in the wine bottle,
does it end somewhere in mist,
is it there, on the countertop,
amidst the chipped salt shaker,
the dented saucepan

time mashes stone
but does it also wipe the blood,
pale the bruising,
or is it flimsier than you ever imagined,
packing up like carnival tents
once the lions have bit, the elephants stomped
and the clowns laughed it all down
as a chaser



Wars, generals, dictators –
countries – such superior pomp –
and here’s my pen scratching at their surface –
you wonder why I choose ordinary people –
the grandeur kills words.

Eyes wandering, heart shooting off sparks,
time to eschew corpses in their millions
for live ones solitary and strolling by the river –
muses don’t hold a grudge –
they set me up for politics
but they’ll settle for the sexual kind.

Sure, I’m going to miss rhetoric,
and excoriating the obviously vile
is definite poetic food
but I’m wary of headlines –
a newspaper does it better –
but when it comes to slender legs, thin waist,
hair fluent in men’s eyes –
hold the presses –
hold them forever.

It’s all Greek, is it? It’s Middle Eastern?
It’s Washington? It’s in our own backyard?
I admit there’s no cure and get on with it –
she’s looking my way –
tanks have never looked my way –
dead soldiers do at times but abstract, obtuse –
she’s direct and definite.

So, at the risk of sounding obnoxious,
in the throes of a genuine meet and greet,
my scorn, my vitriol, can set aside
their differences with the world –
she picks a flower –
to do as much,
our present and accounted for scum
would need to pluck a body from its grave.



Why not?
Better than spending all winter
hunkered down in a bear cave.
Or summers in a shack
in the mosquito-laden swamp
with an old bewhiskered toothless Cajun
alligator farmer.

The bed is as comfortable
as three massages.
And, with the window open,
a cool breeze blows in off the sea.
Better than a bunk
in a weather station atop Mount Washington.
And a diving bell in the Mid-Atlantic
doesn’t even come close.

As for the company,
you’re as engaging as April melt
and as sweet as all the blossoming that follows.
And you’re a vast improvement on the likes
of a hungry mountain lion
or a tattooed wrestler with incontinence issues.

I’ve looked at all the alternatives,
crossed off everything
from a yeti on a Himalayan mountain
to a cannibal on a desert island.
That’s why I’m at your door,
suitcases in hand.
Besides, I love you.
By the way, I just saw a milk snake
slip into your drain-pipe.
But no need to worry.
Reptiles aren’t my type.



“It kicked me,” she says
I nod.
Normal, I figure.
“But then it bit me,
it scratched me,
it beat on the insides
of my uterus like a tom tom,
all the while chanting something
in a strange language.”
Not so normal
but, then again,
some pregnant women
crave peanut butter and ice-cream.

She tells me how
she wakes up in the middle of the night.
sweating profusely,
her body almost floating
in this blood-streaked liquid.
And there’s the dreams,
face to face
with a red-faced horned beast,
the heat of its breath
scorching her flesh.
I look into my medicine cabinet
for something she can take.

I encourage her not to worry.
that this is something
many women go through.
“When the birth occurs,
thanks to modern science,
the process will be painless.
And there’ll be many a nurse on hand
to take care of the your wants
and the baby’s needs.
One to wash it.
One to cut the cord.
One to send him out into the world.”



My old school friend, Gretchen
was bitten by a vampire.
Rumor has it she welcomed her killer.
Gretchen was a virgin sure
but determined to change her status.

Her mother found her in the morning
sprawled across the bed,
skin as pallid as blank paper.
The doctor’s report was as predicted –
not a drop of blood remaining
in any of her veins and arteries.

The funeral notice is in the newspaper.
It reads, “In lieu of flowers, bring mallet and stake.”


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Chronogram and Clade Song.

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