a half-lit street
where feral cats
and a pawnshop window
is hawking stuff
and sirens roar
somewhere off stage
and alleys smell
of piss and cheap whiskey
and I hear voices
but don’t see faces
and the bar’s so dark
there’s no seeing
from the outside –
I feel at risk
and I’m loving it.
He was more of an impediment than a teacher.
A leech if you must know.
Not a guide.
And an expert only in helping himself
to the contents of a fridge.
Of course, in his own head, he was the master.
But, in my kitchen,
he was no more than a free-loading brother-in-law.
“But he has nowhere else to go,” my wife implored.
“There is always Katmandu,” I replied.
For someone so thin,
he could eat like a hyena.
For someone so hairy,
I had to wonder why my blades went missing.
And the constant presence of him sitting
in the lotus position
in the centre of our parlour
A coffee table would have been far more
attuned to the rest of the furniture.
“I am a parent of your mind and soul,” he told me.
I prefer that my parents be older than I am.
He stayed with us for six months,
by which time even my wife had had enough.
He never offered to help with the bills.
And he had long since transcended household chores.
She advised him to move some place
where his eastern wisdom would be more appreciated.
He liked to quote from the Upanishad,
how the word “guru”
is split into gu, meaning darkness,
and ru, which dispels it.
If only I were a guru myself.
I could have dispelled him on the spot
and how the darkness would have lifted.
I’m Corralled by an Uncle at a Family Gathering
The unfunny bounce off my ears.
Sad jokes scatter across the ground like beer cans.
No uncle, I’m not embarrassed.
Nor am I the snooty one in the family.
I like a laugh as much as the next man…
as long as that man is not my father’s brother.
Frustrated nuns, over-sexed farmer’s daughters,
well-endowed guys, X-rated farm animals –
witless perversities all.
I’ve heard folks say that comedy
is tragedy plus time.
Your tragedy still has years to run.
So it’s drizzling.
It doesn’t bother me.
The trees lap it up
Why shouldn’t I?
Warblers sing through it.
Egrets shrug the droplets off
To the waxwings,
it’s a bath that keeps on giving.
The weather can’t dampen mating season.
For the male crane,
courting season is short.
Every dip of the neck
is doubling important.
The strut, the dance,
the fanning of feathers,
for all the cranes to come.
Same for the female.
She hunkers down
in that low-key rainfall,
to watch the show,
succumb if the performance
meets her approval.
is where life struggles forward
and death falls back on wintry habits.
March winds blow into April.
Boughs dribble water
into up-and-coming buds.
My face is cold.
My clothes are damp.
Nothing here for comfort.
But the spirit is appeased.
The Abandoned Lover
She’s terrified of wind
yet there she is on her porch steps,
as a blast of northern air
whips against her body.
She’s afraid of water,
yet she dresses all in white,
walks out into the pond
as mute as the swans.
Ice is even worse,
It could crack at any time.
But there she goes, barefoot,
ignoring the danger signs,
crossing the winter surface
one chill at a time.
She’s fearful the snow will bury her
but she waits beneath the overhanging ledge.
Or that the hungry wolves will carry her off.
Yet she walks slowly in the direction of their howls.
She doesn’t want to die.
But it’s the weather of impending doom.
And she’s a woman after her own heart.
That’s where the culpability lies.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head, and Guest of Myself are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.
You can find more of John’s work here on Ink Pantry.