by John Grey
I know how this comes out.
It's TV, it's Africa after all.
The gazelle, head lowered,
neck bent, is sipping at the water's edge.
And those aren't logs floating on
the dark brown surface.
These days, the show is never about the
feeding habits of hoofed animals.
The camera, the bass-heavy music,
always side with the reptiles.
And what's that say about the audience.
Those scaly creatures are our team.
So cheer for the rows of jagged teeth,
the long green scaly tail.
Punch your fist in the air
when that mighty predator
bursts out from the stream,
jaw grabs panicked prey by throat.
Cheer to the rafters at the
splatter of blood, the tear of flesh,
the splashing, rending, riotous rite
of death and devouring.
But am I the only one
who recalls that gentle head,
those soft eyes, the spindly legs,
the nimble tongue slurping.
Is there no one else in TV land,
who wishes that poor thing
would skitter away,
escape those horrendous jaws.
My wife's convinced it's all a lie.
Those many times the gazelle
actually runs to freedom,
go un-filmed or are snipped into
the oblivion of the cutting room floor.
So my favorite nature documentaries
unreel on my wife's tongue.
I watch them faithfully.
In Their Field
Here in farming country,
the train flies by without stopping.
The locomotive has all the power, the passion,
visible to the eye.
The man on the tractor,
hat down over his burnt face,
feels slower than a caterpillar on a branch,
as weak as a hornworm
melting into its own scenery.
And the train is going places,
as many as a voice can get out over a PA
in a minute without tripping on his tongue.
The farmer knows that,
when he finally reaches the far end of the field,
it's time to turn,
parallel his own steps.
There's faces at the window of the train,
with casual glances,
reducing a life's work to a blur,
a moment's break between a sip of coffee
and the pages of a Robert Ludlum thriller.
The farmer knows that the plowing must be done now
if there's to be a precious harvest in the Fall.
It's a long journey, six months of track,
no truckloads of Chicago 'til October.
The passengers till and plant and water
and let the engine do the rest.
Six hours or less of travelling
and the crop is in.
Art In Wartime
Picasso buried Soutine,
Freundlich died in the camp,
Merzbau Vas destroyed by bombs...
no I can't even imagine it.
I cuss the weather
when it's too hot to write poetry.
But trying to create something
in the middle of crazy, outrageous , bloody war.
Id be in a foxhole
tapping out my next breath.
Yet I can play the good partisan when necessary.
I can be Munch dying of anger
at his occupied country.
Or Mondrian fleeing Nazi air raids.
It just needs the proper stage,
an attentive audience.
I require the reader before me
to be Henry Moore under the bombs.
The one following
to be a tortured surrealist
or Dadaist in a charnel house.
Yes, it's the same old
damnable family life,
communes with nature,
sideswipes at politics.
But it helps if I sound suicidal.
I can be somewhere,
anywhere on the ground.
Then fly overhead and shell me.
Suburban Neighborhood, Full Moon
For every man
that mutates into werewolf,
three take out the trash.
For every woman
who soars into the night sky
on her broom,
five make meatloaf
For every child
who scratches 666
on his flesh
above the wrist,
eleven whiz through
so they can watch
And then for every nosferatu
who stalks the houses
for the blood of virgins,
twenty guys beats him to it.
Into Each Life
As we crawl, scramble to our feet,
then walk away from the accident,
another car slams into our wreck,
and another, and another,
and more bodies grunt and squeeze
their way out through the driver's side door.
We're not relieved.
We merely shrug our shoulders,
say, "Shit happens".
From behind us, from ahead of us,
we're swept up in a chorus
of shit happening to so many.
The road doesn't worry us.
Nor do our nerves.
Nor does the Book of Revelations.
Nor the warnings our mothers handed out
back in the dark ages.
We're a little bloody.
We have to walk instead of ride.
But aside from that,
we've never felt better.
On the far horizon, a truck
sideswipes a van.
That could have been us.
The Young Woman Who Will Be Old Some Day
There is no wisdom in her future.
Merely powder caking wrinkles,
lip-stick staining mouth and chin.
The experiences of a life-time
won't still her hand
or stop the wig from
slipping from her head.
She's not saving for tomorrow,
not in her purse, not in her mind.
She keeps staring in that mirror.
It's a lousy teacher.
The only thing it knows is her.
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