Thursday, January 28, 2016

poems by , John Grey

John Grey


She calls her mother daily,
lips taut, teeth cracked open slightly,
her speech restricted
to only the most mundane of sounds.

Meanwhile, her mother pulls on
her daughter's words
like hands round rope
in a tug-of-war.
She wants the truth to come pouring out
along with the small talk,
break through these unnatural barricades.

But what's on the daughter's mind is too dense.
It can't be wrenched from her head
without taking half of her brain with it.
So her mother's futile entreaties
sweat and ache, grow callouses.

But she'll telephone again tomorrow
and then the day after that.
She has this urge to sa)' little
and hold back much.
Her mother feels a duty
to nibble at the ordinary
while imagining the worst.

It's a ritual that fills a need.
Mostly, it's the need of the ritual.


You were drawn to the chaos,
borne around bends,
through thin, dangerous channels
or brandished above me
over trees, rooftops,
your crazy grease-stained wheels
farther and farther below,
your dying like flying across the sky.

Watching the stars,
I want to separate you
from how I feel,
awed by your untamable,
unimaginable speeds
before ice played a role,
and slid you on like water
racing for the downspout -

the grave that knew
it was only a matter of time.


DOWNWARD DAN                                    

A drunken brawl
that he can hardly remember
and Dan had lost half his front teeth,
found himself sprawled on a sidewalk
in Dover, Delaware,
spitting blood and molar,
a burning throb in his jaw
as if someone had connected
with a flaming arrow.

A cop came by,
thumped Dan's wayward mouth
into a smile.
Dan reckoned it was tough,
from that angle
to tell what the joke was all about.
All he could think about
was his busted face.
how long it would be
before even the ugliest of women
found it to be kissable again.

He never did locate a dentist
who would work for nothing
or a fancy lady friend who could see past
his sunken cheeks.
But there was always liquor.
It never asked for
what he wasn't prepared to give.
His gums could testify to that.

There were more brawls,
more sidewalks,
more cops
but. at least,
he never lost another tooth.
One night, a homeless woman
offered him a place to sleep
under her bridge.
And she had a bottle of rotgut
which she shared.
That's how low Dan's sunk
since we hung with him back in the day.
He eats out of dumpsters.
He panhandles.
Whatever money he comes by
goes straight to the liquor store.
Soon, his insides will go the way of his canines
and without need of an intermediary
like a punch to the gut.

Dan's the one we all consult
if we want to know more about
a downward spiral.
And his run-ins with cops
are our dispirited lecture
on the true meaning of the law.
He's also a good example
of the tipping point
when alcohol becomes booze.
And he and his toothless bride
are a willing case
of what it takes sometimes
to be with somebody.

How many years is it
since we were all in high school together?
We knew Dan before he was an illustration.