Poetry Drawer: Roll the Film, Gotham: Regarding my Creation: The Fruit of Middle Age: Romance: The Saga of my Office: At the Border by John Grey

Roll the Film, Gotham

The source of night
finally enters the city.
Unwedded to sense,
it conjures up a storm.
An effort to become whole
through union with another
is thwarted by a stab of lightning,
a roll of thunder.
An imaginary picture in the mind
is set aflame.
So phony and brilliant
can’t get together
with conceited and raw.
Too much changing,
transference, transforming.
Sustained energy
comes in the form
of bad waking dreams.
Secret knowledge scratches
and shrieks and howls.
Suggestions are true
and make everybody nervous.
It’s a sideshow.
It’s a trapeze act.
It’s no longer about people.
A strange face
emerging from the shadows
suggests a different function.

Regarding my Creation

You were in error
to give birth to me.
If you want,
I’ll stay away
and you can replace me
with ceramics
or quilts.
That one moment of heat
can be your hands
feverishly working the potter’s wheel,
making shapes that stay shapes,
articles so useful or so decorative
they never outstay their welcome.
That dream of family
can be you gliding long patient needles
through endless skeins of wool
while folds of warm and loving fabric
gather on your lap.
It’s how we make sense
of those infrequent times I visit.
Yes I could have made something of myself.
But you could just as easily have made something.

The Fruit of Middle Age

A plump squash
plucked from the field,
she hugs all the way to the house
like a new baby.
Or breasts when she lifts it high.
Or her stomach
when her arms sag.

Her man watches
from the widow,
opens the door
as she approaches the stoop,
ushers wife and fruit
into the kitchen
where she plumps her prize
on the table.

She grew it, he’s thinking.
It’s an extension of her flesh,
her bone.
He runs his hands
over the smooth, hard rind.
Best of all, it’s new.
And at a time
when nothing else is.


Hasn’t happened yet
but I hold out hope:
the sidewalk café in Lyon,
the beautiful young French woman
at the next table,
sipping her expresso,
reading Arthur Miller’s “Tropic Of Cancer”
in English,
looking up at me with pale green eyes,
soft mouth,
and with an accent
like a get-together
of all romance tongues extant,
and who asks, “Can you help me with this word?”

You might think that
the more settled I am,
the more contented in my marriage,
the less likely I’m to be in such a situation
and, even if it did happen,
I’d act more like a language professor
than a young man in thrall
to delicate beauty, inviting demeanor.

But, all my life,
I’ve known the word,
have kept it close,
awaiting the opportunity
to explain, translate
or just say it aloud.
It’s a mighty word.
I would hate to waste it.

The Saga of my Office

Fingers tap an invigorating rhythm.
And I’ve never known a pen yet that didn’t
burrow like a rabbit in a bundle of papers.
And look, the coaster and the CD are transposed.
Can’t keep the desk from wobbling.
I’m buried in junk.
Disarray will have to be array for the immediate future.
This DVD has been watched once
but will never be seen again.
But it’s with me until the end.
That’s what I like about trash.
It doesn’t complain. It stands by me.
Every ill-suited thing
has always been suited to me.
I give my dress-sense as evidence.
Throw in the mix-tape that combines Def Leppard
with Carnival of the Animals.
And where did I put the screw driver?
And do I really need it now anyhow?
Meanwhile, I rest my coffee cup on Ray Charles.
And I’m surrounded by printers.
It’s all a mess but so is a field of wildflowers.
And it so resembles what I imagine
imagination to look like.
But I wonder where
I put that poem I was revising.
My brain says toss out what you don’t need.
But my heart’s having none of it.
Besides, who knows what use
the useless will someday provide.
My books are up to their old habits.
They just won’t stick to alphabetical order.
The one I’m looking for is around here somewhere.
So much else is.
Why shouldn’t it be?

At the Border

Shocked out of sleep. Coalpit dark.
Bus at a standstill. Windows coated in dust.

Men in uniforms, with guns, usher
us into a nearby building.

A thousand questions in stumbling English.
A thousand stumbling answers.
How long, who with and where.
Best innocent expression.

Passport glared at, begrudgingly stamped.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

Another guy is dragged off
to a different room,
door closed behind him.
He does not get back on the bus.

More sleep. In a different country this time.

Part of the pleasure of travel.
Not wanted.
But not wanted nearly enough.

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.

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