Poetry by John Grey

NIGHT FALLS

Epic of shadow and fading,
the downfall of the sun, treachery of sky.

The time of clarity is over.
The obscure rules. Incomprehensibility

sits on its right hand. Hardness on its left.
Here comes night, and Street lamps,

the ultimate deception. Treason is on the rise.
Neon flatters to deceive. A man ventures out,

his motives chilled to the stars, his vision
shrunk to the distance between he and darkness.

He pretends to be at play. Dance, drink, eat,
laugh. Delusion’s such a petty scoundrel.

It kisses a stranger. It fights a punk.
It staggers out into the night, bloody and raw.

On oblique streets, the light is a fool,
the flesh is unaccountable.

MY NEIGHBOR’S FIRE   

I don’t know where his timber comes from
but cords of wood in giant stacks
inside and outside his shed
appear with Fall’s first chill.
The crack of axe brings his bounty
to my attention.
I stare out the window,
watch again and again
as the silver blade swings down,
hits pay-dirt in a spray
of sweat and chips.
I feel like a hungry soul
looking up through the gates
of a rich man’s house.
Where is my fodder for the fire?
Where is the warm
that I take upon myself,
deliver with my own hands?
He’s tossing logs in flame
while I’m fiddling with a thermostat.
The hearth is giving back
what he gave it
while my radiators kick and grumble
to the brutal blows of boiler steam.
Imagine, late at night,
a house cocooned from cold,
embers of a day’s work
simmering on the skin
like a lovely woman’s kiss.
The shrew is with me
hissing at the mouth.

 

THE HEART SCAR

The knife is a suspect for a time.
Under the hot-lights of the kitchen table,
your eyes beg it to come clean,
but the red on its sharp blade
is nothing but ketchup
and the white is not flesh,
but remnants of egg.
Every other sharp edge is then
questioned in turn:
the jagged lid of the can of peas,
the shard of plate tossed in the trash,
the edge of the side-board,
the point of the shiny fork.
Like the cool detective you are,
you rule everything out
until nothing is left
but the man in the other chair
slowly sipping his coffee,
reading his newspaper,
waiting for his bread to toast.
You weigh the evidence:
the kisses, the threats,
the warm touch, the cold shoulder.
No jury on earth would convict him.
But that doesn’t mean this jury
shouldn’t try.

NATIONAL GUARD ARRIVING HOME

He can tell her what patrol is like,
rattling vehicle, unfriendly streets,
wondering whose name and serial number
is on the next roadside bomb
or sniper shot.

And she can tell him
what a half-empty bed is like,
not just the chill of one body
used to two,
but the heart and head that
felt like they too were on patrol,
anticipating bomb and shot
with every snatch of sleep.

They greet each other at the airport,
say nothing, just hug.
He could tell her what she could tell him
so why bother.

 

John Grey lives in Providence, Rhode Island. He has been published recently in the Georgetown Review, Connecticut Review,  South Carolina Review and The Pedestal and has work upcoming in Poetry East and The Pinch.

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