Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘For protection’ and other poems

By: John Grey


You’ve been instructed not to run.
Or scream. Or fight.
Just talk.
Appeal to his better nature.
Or act crazy.
Pretend you’re a pigeon
with a broken wing.
Gobble gobble gobble
and make believe
you can’t raise your right arm.
Or say something like
God is looking down from above.
Or ask about his mother.
Imitate your dog,
the one that ran away,
and bark and growl
like you’re warding off an intruder.
You’ve heard that,
if all else fails,
there is always the thumbs
to the eyes trick
and the squeeze of the testicles
until they burst like cumquats.
I don’t know why
you’re telling me this
when all I want to do
is kiss you.
You’ve been told that
to avoid being kissed
a woman should make
a buzzing noise like a hornet.
You purr like a cat instead.



hold faces
so endearingly,
even in the dark,
prefer that lingering
on the last phrase
to the mad rush to the next line,
have such magnificent disdain
for what’s been said already.

create their own kind of Main Street,
where memory is never done weeping,
regrets can be revisited,
and people take the news
kindlier this time.

are not afraid of the other shore
or the fugitives they give shelter to,
work with the whole gamut of colors.
offer love to the ones they outlived.

don’t pray exactly,
nor are they gods or preachers,
but they take on the responsibilities
of the spirit,
to slough off the shadows,
talk up the light.

seek information
the poet does not possess,
feel private even in public,
seek out the eyes of others,
an enquiry, an absorption,
on a level with their own.



The Barrett boy is locked
beneath the lake,
his body splashing like
a fish’s tail,
his face pressing panic
hard against solid chill.

Children run everywhere,
flail their arms,
scream “Help” loud enough
to crack the ice some more.

Last year, the Lincoln’s youngest
got lost and died in Baker’s wood.
The year before, the Andrews kid
fell into a steep crevice.
It’s nature’s way of saying…
but of saying what?

Soon adults, parents.
fire-trucks, cops, are on the scene,
lights blazing, tongues flapping.
If this poem
was called “too late”,
it would just be this stanza.
If it were “you can’t protect
them from everything,”
it would be the one before.

But it’s regarding
the Barrett boy as revenant,
his pale blue face
staring up through
a glazed, inchoate surface,
eyes spaced wide
by invisible pennies –
it’s about memory and dreams –
whatever the state
where we’re reminded.



You were Hildergard of Bingen,
that was the problem.
You were on watch for the tongue of flame
uprooting the dark chaos.

What was a car on the road to you?
What was a Chevy taking a corner too fast
to the creation of heaven and earth
and the jolting of people out of lumps of clay?

That some solitary drunken driver
couldn’t keep his wheels on tar
was as far from activating heat and light
as a seed from a lump of coal.

You didn’t even hear brakes screech
not with such incendiary potential all around,
a revolution of ideas and creation,
lively experience and unabashed awe.

Heavy metal thrashing,
a driver’s face spitting oil, losing water,
his hands ‘thrown up in the air,
a loud cry – as close to nothing as it gets.

The car smashed your body to pulp.
But somewhere beyond the firmament,
two rocks bumped together.
The collision released such a spark.



So how do you carve your myth?
And what makes it so sacred?
Forget the truth.
Big-noting lies trump all.

Get it down on paper.
Pose for its photograph.
Post it in your family’s databanks.
The ways to how you wish to be remembered
are endless.

A hundred years from now
no one will know the difference.
You’ll be the shards
of a lost civilization,
a solitary bone
from which a whole creature
is revealed.

Head of the family indeed.
All the world will really know
is that there was a head in there somewhere.



The very crown of a gator’s head disappears
below the murky brown surface for a moment
but along my backbone to this very day –

somewhere between the lumbar
and thoracic curves,
two eyes keep track of what could

be lurking under the bed
or hissing up from the toilet bowl –
lovers and friends, family and colleagues,

I am a thin silent scream echoed out
of existence by the deft placement of my bones –
otherwise, I’m as flaccid as a fresh-killed rabbit.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.

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