Poetry Drawer: A Man in Neutral: Mystery Woman: Death Of Miss America 194..: Two for the Sno-Cat: The Living and the Dead by John Grey

A Man in Neutral

I won’t cut my arm just to see myself bleed.
Nor will I roam the cemetery trails,
as if the dead are the perfect company for the likes of me.
Not that I’m about to take up dancing.
Not with these clumsy feet.
Or give up alcohol.
I have too many demons deserving of drowning.
But I won’t stick my head in places
from, which it’s not easily extracted.
Like fence railings. Or stocks.
Not that I’m about to find someone
and then do everything together.
But I won’t lop off my toes with a scythe.
Or crack open my head on the rocks below.
No affairs of the heart. But no opiates either.
And no passion, for good or for bad.
I won’t deny my body what it needs to survive.
But nor will I promise these bones, this flesh,
anything beyond that.

This time it will be different.
The highs, the lows, will be so controlled
they’ll think they’re twins.
Such is my pledge.
So I go on from here,
Ecstasy is uncalled for.
Despair no longer suits my style.

It’s Saturday night.
I’m not going anywhere.
My mind is babysitting my heart.
It’s not going anywhere either.

Mystery Woman

notate each awakening
and flash of foreknowledge;

on your balcony,
face east, over ocean
to where the horizon stretches
to no end in sight;

the country can’t get enough
divine philosophers,
seers who tell our fortunes
in a crumple of feathers
or a spinning ball,
who reach into the dark chasm
of the days ahead,
extract a telling tale;

wear icons round your throat,
talismans on your wrist;
spread Tarot cards before you,
stir tea leaves with your fingernail;

explain the enigmas,
lift the shadows,
quiet the doubters,
offer holy incentive
to the believers;

I think you’re the one
but I need you
to tell me;

it’s the mysteries
of the universe
and it’s all in a life’s work;

Death Of Miss America 194..

“Say, does the coffin pinch?”
No one thinks of you anymore.
Miss America 194…
Ah, Miss America. So old. How dull.
Your compass watches
more than your gallery.
And the angel of numbers
is counting down to zero when it suits.
And meanwhile, you, in the wind,
flutter worse than butterflies –
by Government declaration,
the moon is wrinkles,
the sun is red-streaked eyes.
You’re no longer forbidden
the fear of winter’s white bear.
From one of one
now a miniscule fraction often billion –
gold dust and tiaras…goodbye.
Hunting with memory,
there’s still no game.
Just yawning
Miss America,
queen of all states
but not one of them
thinks of you anymore.
Nor do sun, moon, or stars.
Just the sullen greenish-yellow air.
Only mildew is left to ask,
“Do your shoes pinch?”
Lightning, thunder,
even sky is prohibited –
the weather has settled
on streaky wind
whipping the flesh
from the bones of your face.
No one believes that you were lovely once.
Your chalk flames out shrill
on the heavenly blackboards.

Two for the Sno-Cat

Joe’s fifty seven
and his knees
won’t stop whining,
Anne’s twenty seven,
recovering from
a busted relationship.
And within this glacier,
lies a man,
his body preserved by
his moment of death,
even to the seal meat
in his stomach
that’s caked in frozen acid.
His skin is hard
as Arctic earth,
eyes closed
by the weight on him.
His heart’s encased
in a jewel box of ice,
his blood stalled
on orders from
his perfectly
encapsulated last breath,
His brain is a prison of neurons
awaiting a thought, a sensation,
so all can break free.
A Sno-Cat,
piloted by Joe,
navigated by Anne,
is grinding its way
through the area,
studded steel belts
ripping up the surface,
about to accidentally
unleash the distant past
on the world.
“It’s hard getting old,” he says.
“You should try
the singles scene,” she replies.
Within this glacier,
lies a man
about to meet his public.
He’s a thousand years old,
in a time when no one else is.

The Living and the Dead

The lilies are born on their death-bed.
Come morning, these pretty blooms
will be all funeral.
I stare out my window at their cool breeze wake.
How they flutter.
How we’d all flutter
if we didn’t know the truth.

I’m in a coffee shop
taking forever over the latest nectar
from the Kona Coast.
A lovely young woman nibbles on a muffin,
reads The Great Gatsby.
I swear her lips move
reciting Daisy’s lines.
I’m on the west coast for a week.
I’ll never see her again.
That’s a kind of death.

It can join shooting star
or glimpse of scarlet tanager
or grizzled face
in the attic window of the old house –
their brief is brevity.
Here then gone,
my life is this constant killer.

But some things stay around.
I have loved ones.
I’ve got possessions.
And a neighborhood, a town.
I may live for the transitory
but I live in the permanent.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

You can find more of John’s work here on Ink Pantry.

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