Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘At Blake’s Funeral’ and other poems

By: John Grey


We were wrong
to think that we were
full of meaning
and that the problem was
that we just couldn’t
express ourselves.

No, we were zombies
marching in step
with a casket, doing
our best to hold onto
what was already lost to us.

And we just took
the form of motion,
stopping only when
we came upon
this hole in the ground.

The priest was no wiser
but he had a script at least
and duly read from it.

We stood there
no thoughts
and barely a muscle twitching.
All of us living
got to act out death.


She was as fearsome as a buffalo charge.
And as independent as any woman
had a right to be
when left with a garage and gas station to run.
She pumped fuel and she hammered,
was never happier than when her head
was under a car hood.
She could handle any man on Scott’s Lane,
reduce a punk to foam with a glare.
I remember when she took down Mr. Glamor.
And outraced all of the hot rod gang
in that old rust-trap of hers.
In Roman times, she’d have been
the first female gladiator,
in sci-fi stories, the roughest
sky monarch of them all.
Remember Flash Sam.
I wouldn’t either except
for the time she broke his nose
for trying to cheat him on some chickens
she was buying from him.
No chasing moonbeams for her.
I reckon she was the inspiration for barbwire.
And no shot at the big time either.
She was happy enough being a big toad
in a small neighborhood pond.
She never married,
was never with a man or woman
as far as I know.
She snarled and fought her way
to sixty-three years of age
before her heart took a good look at her
and was no doubt appalled
by what it saw.
She fell to the ground
and, try as she might, couldn’t get up.
Then they lumped six feet of dirt atop here.
I figure she’s down below somewhere
taking that as a challenge.


Mosquitoes fed on flesh.
Chirping crickets wouldn’t leave their sanity alone.
The night was fall of insects
and two men
pulling out then plunging down again
in thick molasses mud.

Their car sat
as sunken as their spirits,
buried halfway up its wheels.
Cursed luck replaced pain
as the bête noir in their bodies.

They waited two hours
by the side of the road,
in debilitating grayness.
for the one with the tow truck,
the Jesus of the bayou.

As the night oozed on,
tree frogs assailed them
with a long, drawn out chorus
of e-e-e-e-e-e-e.
A nice touch
like fixing a guy’s collar
after you knife him.


It’s Saturday night,
and I’m happy enough
and interested maybe,
as I saunter down the sidewalk
like someone who figures,
for as long as the sky’s dark
and the neon shines,
he’s a mover and, what’s the word,

Eat fish, drink beer,
enter the club
high on gluttony and lust,
music’s dense,
feet unhinged,
lots of bodies,
don’t want to be in my poet’s guise,
not now, just in case
there’s something here
worth feeling.


He was a hot lead guitarist in a rock band.
His tresses fell down below his shoulders.
His old man him “Girlie.”
His reply was a sneer, a snarl.

But now, his hair is trying to tell him something.
Follicles are losing their grip.
The comb is now his worst enemy.
Strands wrap around its pongs to escape.

His hair prefers to stay behind on the pillow
when he gets out of bed in the morning.
Or they clog the sink.
Or mate with the dust on the floor.

The top of his head is a bald patch.
His brow doesn’t know where to stop.
The groom in the wedding photo
is almost a stranger.

His wife says nothing.
She remembers her wedding vows:
“for richer for poorer,
for vanity for thick flowing locks.”

But he looks in her eyes
and a cue ball is reflected back at him.
And, though her loving hand still
brushes his cheek from time to time,

it ascends no farther.
He’s no longer the rebellious son.
He’s turning into his father.
His attitudes aren’t mellowing with age.

They’re falling out of him.
From time to time, he sneaks a peak in the mirror.
But he’s the wrong man
to despise what he sees.


Here the spawn ends,
in death without protest,

as pitiless, as regular,
as the turning of a wheel:

one spin,
a gush of rushing water,

next spin,
more water,
a fish
startled to realize

that this is not the place.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Santa fe Literary Review, and Sheepshead Review. Latest books, ”Between Two Fires”, “Covert” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, La Presa and California Quarterly..

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