Three Poems

by John Grey

BYSTANDER

Let’s begin with
a bird smacking the window,
a good omen that drops into the garden below.

And then an unanswered call
from an unknown number,
the deaths that can’t penetrate
the sinews of this house.

Effervescence echoes
through a lazy breakfast.
Would-be invaders
just get mad at the fact.

So much for darkness, terror,
So much salt in my eyes, on my tongue,
Electric heat is borrowed from the sun,
never to be returned.
Nothing like an extra serving
of Teflon and accessories.

I’m in my own head –
a good omen.
I buy organic.
I drink the world’s best water.
This house is straight out of a fantasy novel.
one that I’m constantly writing.

It doesn’t matter
that soldiers come home in body bags.
Or that drive-by shootings
make a point of happening elsewhere.
Or I’ve never spoken once to my neighbor.
And nothing contaminates the sink.

I am on schedule.
The world’s falling apart
but I see no reason to correct that.
So the hero gets it in the neck.
The bystander takes it from there.

HOME INVASION

While we were away, a former life
moved into the house, planted a garden.
It even acquired six chickens, built a coop.
So yesterday will have fresh eggs.
And there’ll always be the blooms of years ago.

My youth moved in some of its favorite furniture,
already well-used but as comfortable
as a hug before the fire.
Along with a record collection, all vinyl,
each a holy sacrament with many tracks to worship.

Yes, that vacation proved a boon to memory.
It picked up where long ago left off,
Juniper berries attracted cedar waxwings.
Frogs burped from the depths of the pond.
And a fresh breeze blew dust off the laughter.

And then there were the people we hadn’t seen in years
They paid a call even as we laid back
on that southern beach, sipping pina coladas in the sun.
Cheap wine tasted better than the expensive stuff.
So how it was filled every glass.

Yes, that time together, alone, far from work and family,
certainly inspired what we used to have.
It’s emerged from wherever we left it
and it was like it had never been away.
Was it there when we got back?

Who says we ever got back?

A JANUARY PORTRAIT

Raw January.
chilly wind off the water.
Woodpeckers hammer
holes in dead trees for grubs.
Warblers migrated,
the song is left with house sparrows.
A solitary jogger,
bundled up like an Aleut,
sweats contrarily.
The sky is clear
but that’s a mirage.
To make something of all this,
a man must turn to his heart.
his history.

January is a designated part of life.
There’s no getting away from it.
Only the hawk can soar.
It strikes a bargain with winter –
bitter temperatures on one side,
no camouflage for prey on the other.
In such bleakness,
I succor who I can,
pray for those I can’t,
bolster myself with thinking
spring will be here soon enough.
Meanwhile, a neighbor’s in his backyard splitting wood.
I stay inside, split the difference.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

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