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by John Grey




It's the third river we've crossed,
water rough but shallow
and the bottom firm.

On the other side,
the trail stretches
far into the distance,
to the shining peaks and -
who knows? - maybe beyond.

A nudge to the horse's flanks
and they canter forward.

Can't exactly say what we intend.
Is there some place out there,
far in the distance,
where we are going to?

Most likely,
the journey itself
is the destination.

We spy the bones
of a man and beast
roasting in the sun.

See –

that proves it.



a line, (a short blue one)


Long Hike

by wood-chopped
bursts of air,
umbilical darkness.
for days through
relentless forest,
green nitrogen fizz
held me dumb
in its fold
in drops of light:
a simple touch,
of circling song,
my palm moist,
my mouth agape at
smooth whorl,
shredded trail,
this flower,
that creature,
what began
in an overgrown car-park
now ending near
a highland town,
a real road,
and the high-wire
greeting card
of crows


a line, (a short blue one)


The Model

She stepped out of a stretch limo
in roses and Paris perfumes,
birds humming in her golden locks,
breeze blowing sherbet
through the air's frenzied awe.

We looked and saw six movies stars,
a rock goddess, maybe Helen of Troy
and the characters that drive men mad
in three different novels.
The trees bowed down.
Hotel shutters clapped.
Windows couldn't get enough faces.

Her eyes...
light sped around buildings
just to get there.
Her lips...
every thought older than child's toys
was a stolen kiss.

She tapped high heels across the sidewalk
whose bad-luck cracks threw up their hands,
anointed the lucky silver circle of her shoes.
The doorman mutated into a door,
wide open, but she slipped
into the revolving entry
and its better offer
of chandeliers and bellhops,
front desks and rooms
with eider pillows and silken sheets.

When she was gone,
we dusted off our breath
and ran toward the park.
We were all of eleven,
still sneered at girls
but knew exactly
where they were headed.


a line, (a short blue one)


Answering Machines

I save some of my best work tor answering machines.
And it's always off the cuff.
There's no spending hours agonizing over a single word.
Or worrying about whether it's been said before
or if the language is too flowery or not flowery enough.
Forget all that stuff I get down on paper.
It's when 1hear the words "J... can't come to the phone right now,
that my imagination really does kick in.

Think of it.
An old technology Panasonic with dual compact cassette tapes
is my Erato.
No robed woman strumming a lyre
But a mechanical device with a speaker, a reverse and play button.
I pity the giants of the past - Whitman, Keats, Coleridge.
No disembodied voice ever once said to them.
"Leave a message and I'll get back to you."

When I called J..., I was bored,
hardly in a creative mood.
And I wasn't expecting anything more
than a cursory conversation
about the weather, places she's dined lately
and how the job's going.
But she wasn't at home. So where could she be?
Or she just didn't want to answer. And why not?
Or she was physically unable to reach for the receiver.
That's worth about ten thousand possibilities in itself.
When did the loveliest of flowers offer as much?

So I said, "It's just me. Call when you get a chance.
Nothing major."
It's all there:
phonaesthetics, symbolism, meter,
assonance, alliteration and incantatory rhythm.
And she got back to me within the half hour.
No reader ever did.



a line, (a short blue one)


The Reformation

She couldn't believe
that word came out of him.
Sure, he'd been talking gentle.
Romantic even.
But "love."
Like a song freed from jukebox crackle.
Like a wave of summer lightning.

And on her bed.
The one that wouldn't let her sleep,
where closing her eyes just a little
forced her like a jailer
in behind the bars of her head.

And that's where the earth opened up.
Buildings toppled.
Everything was aflame.
People running, this way,
screaming, yelling,
their clothes, their hair, on fire.

And just when she couldn't
take it any longer,
he was talking in a way
that was good for her,
pumping up her heart
while shutting her brain down.

Her visions consisted merely
of whatever was in the room.
Naked, she felt like a bride.
Held so tight.
his body dressed her in white.
She could smell the roses,
hear the organ music.
And there were no roses in the room.
Organs maybe. But without the pipes.



a line, (a blue one)


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