TWO POEMS – John Grey

Posted: October 23, 2012 in Fiction, Poetry
Tags: , , , ,

RETRIEVE

This is where the couple were killed

crossing the road. So I am careful

as if I’m holding a baby.

Amanda’s ball bounces fearlessly

among the tractor trailers. Had Clara

and Joe been made of rubber,

hollow inside, maybe they’d have survived.

“Don’t worry,” I shout to a tearful Amanda.

“I’ll get it back for you.”

 

It’s been a hot, dry summer.

Jake is watching from the window.

He can hold his breath but

not as long as the sky’s been doing.

“Jesus, child, be careful.

First it’s cousins. Then it’s crops.

What next does the good Lord

want to take from me.”

 

The dog could care less.

He’s chasing an insect. First,

he maims it with his paw.

Then he lets it go ’cause, despite the weather,

he’s not done pursuing.

 

And Rita’s in bed for the fortieth day,

fortieth night. She doesn’t have to wander

in the desert. It comes to her.

She’d give her painful right leg

to be able to cross a street

under her own steam,

even if it meant dodging

the Caspers in their rusty pickup.

 

Suddenly, would you believe it,

there’s a gigantic pause to the road.

Where two minutes before,

it had been a crazy freeway full of cars,

now it’s as empty as a football field at dusk.

I could picnic on the center line.

Amanda’s about to run after me

but I tell her “No… stay.” Even nothing

can be dangerous around here.

 

Joanne’s in the kitchen.

She’s in love with the smells

her leather hands can muster.

She loves to bewilder the local

noses with helping of spices

she picks up in the city.

And who does she have to cook for…

Rita who can’t taste a thing,

Jake who doesn’t know sirloin from possum.

And Amanda’s only five years old.

Like me, she’d rather cereal than anything.

Joanne stares intently at her spice rack.

Maybe she should label them all ingratitude.

 

I’ve got so many reasons to hate summer.

The mice are so sassy, peek up from the

grass and poke their tongues. And my

ears don’t stop buzzing with mosquitoes.

And the ants are in everything. Jake

sprays, Joanne swats, but Rita can’t do

anything but feel them crawl across her face.

 

I’m on the opposite side of the road,

ball in hand. The vacuum awaits in

the parlor. It’s my chore. Hate the job

but I must admit I love the rollicking

sound it makes. Amanda finds a moment

of patience from somewhere, stands

there patiently while a lumber truck

rolls by, a tanker, a Cadillac, and their

mirror images the other way.

 

I could have Rita’s life here in my hands

as well for all the use she gets out of it.

And Jake’s blooming field rained on by my young

flesh, long hair, how far my eyes can see.

Even enough insects for the dog to chase two canine lifetimes.

And the meal Joanne prepares that has

everyone sprawled back in their chairs

and sighing “Wow!” Damn, the ball’s

got a nail in it. Just my luck. By the time

I return the world to Amanda, it will be a flat one.

 

 

THE BIRD AND THE GLASS

Only the dipping neck

of the bird posed over

the drinking glass is sane.

Its dialectic bobbing

is a relief from

the chaos around it,

the waitresses who dash

back and forth in my head,

cooks angrily snatching

orders from clips

in the busy diners of the heart.

It substitutes for the dream.

I do not have to be

at the center of a vast amphitheater.

There is no need for tours

buzzing all around me,

students with notebooks,

guides proficient in a thousand languages.

The bird can be my doubts,

my prognosis, my premonition.

It can be the vague faces on the wall,

the stuff half-heard,

the person I thought I knew.

A child of its physical limitations,

it has nothing better to do

than be clear and precise.

Dip, pop back, dip, pop back.

It works every time.

A man in the background

is lecturing the crowds

on where I let them down

but the bird responds to its mechanics,

dips down into the cold beer

of the universe,

rises back up into the light,

the taste of understanding on its lips.

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