a warning or two
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by John Grey




Pulled Over


Sure, Christine was speeding

on that dark, back-country road

and throw in the occasional swerve

like when a rabbit darted across the road

or, as she put it, a born-again Christian.

“Careful,” said Michelle.

“There’s a dead body in the back.”

So there we were, among the dead men,

and what could Christine do but plunge her foot

down on the accelerator,  get us the hell out of there.

Yes, we’d be drinking. And Christine had

been fighting off advances from some heavy-set guy.

We were young. A few beers had us staggering/

It was time for us to leave.

And Christine loved speed, especially

with a body in the back.

So off we went at a pace like you might see

down a NASCAR straightaway.

I crossed myself vigorously.

The body in the back began to rub its eyes, wake up.

And then Michelle said, there’s a cop up

ahead and he’s waving us over. We hid the beers.

And there we were, at the side of the road,

mired in the shadow of the law.

First thing out of his mouth was

how he knew all of our parents.

Don’t remember much after that.

Maybe sitting on a bench at the station.

Time trailing off in all directions like dirt roads.

Head losing traction and grip. Or walking a plank.

Or scrambling on foot through a maze of carnival bumper cars.

Christine talked herself into trouble deeper and deeper.

Michelle burst into tears.

The body in the back merely belched and giggled.

Somebody’s head leaned on mine.

Tragedy trembled on the edge of farce.

Cop says, “You could have all been killed.

Is that what you want?” Three no’s and a maybe.

Then all was silent until the folks came.

Christine was grounded.

Michele was hanging with the wrong crowd.

I should have known better.

The body in the back went home alone.




a line, (a short blue one)



A Warning In Paradise


It’s his first lesson in muck.

Where there are pigs.

there will always be pig shit.

And cows make patties.

And horses must do something

with all that excess hay they devour.

Even the hens aren’t averse

to pooping all over the coop.



comes with a lot of yuk.

He learns that when he starts

to stumble about outside.

His fingers grub up

in one turn of a mother’s head.

She steps in to keep them clean

when she can.

She worries that his mouth is in the firing line. 


It’s the same with fire.

The hot plates on the stove.

The stairs.

The bottles in the medicine cabinet.

Pointed sticks.

His father’s truck goes without saying.

Or does it?


But it’s a warm summer’s day.

Why coop him up inside.

A light wind ruffles the grass, the scattered trees.

He reaches down to pick up something shiny.

It’s a shard of glass that cuts his finger.

More delight that brings him harm.




a line, (a short blue one)



Warning Valerie About Hitchhiking



and you’re just as good as dead

is what they told her


no more romance

of the road

merely danger

from who knows

how many weirdoes

out there


two fifty pounds

of tattooed trucker

and a wife ten times

uglier than you


what's the odds


and the slimy guy

in the sports car


sure he looks like

you could take him easy enough

but what if he has a knife


for all your resourcefulness

you're no Jacqueline Kerouac

on the side of the road


just a whore

and asking for it

in the minds

of so many on the road


still if you've been nowhere

and you've got nothing


then there’s no greater risk than that




a line, (a short blue one)



Life Story


You can never be too comfortable.

Even in the womb,

I heard anger from various sources,

the symptoms of a cold at close quarters

and some of the lamest love talk

since Hallmark was invented.

And then I was born

and the light wasn’t natural

and never would be.


As my body grew to the height

of the pencil mark on the side of the door,

giants overwhelmed me with their very presence,

let alone their condescension.

School began with my ignorance

and drearily tried to replace it

with something far worse.

And work had me up on

the closest just doing my job

gets to criminal charges.


Romance stood to fear’s attention

then brought out my painful coyote howl.

It was followed up by love

which did for the human heart

what hammers do for nails.

Over the years,

marriage, less gaudy than simply dating,

resorted to mild suffering

with intermittent bouts of manna from in-laws.


Then having a family of my own

was like bringing more of myself into the world

for which I was heavily fined

and temporarily banned from the game.

Sickness, of course, stalked me like a shadow.

For a time there, I was its shadow.

And all that’s left to me is death

and its petty problems.


I’ve come to the conclusion

that life is no comfort zone.

It’s a trial by temperament.

And who am I to judge?




a line, (a short blue one)



The Odd One Out


It was Halloween

and none of the costumes

of the little ones

were the least bit scary.

There were more super heroes

and ballerinas

than witches and goblins,

vampires and monsters.


Except one little boy

was painted creamy white

with charcoaled cheeks,

black around the eyes

and blue lips.


He could have been

a Zombie

but he looked more like

the corpse of a child.


He welcomed my treat.

I shuddered at his trick.




a line, (a blue one)


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