Grey J – John Grey

The ocean is theater
and its stage is deep and dark,
its orchestra seats, the shoreline.
But the show is slowly moving
in on its audience.
Lying in bed,
you listen to the performance.
Waves slam against rock,
scramble up the sea-wall,
sweep across your pebbled lawn,
slap against your cottage’s foundations.
No need to panic though.
It’s not that kind of show.
Sure, you hear water bounce off wood.
But the sound is soft and almost pleasing.
Ocean can’t surely be a predator.
Sure, it rises inch by inch.
But so will you come morning.
Tomorrow, with a yawn.
Someday, with a gargle.
Is anything central to my being?
The wheat-fields, the scattered farm-houses,
eternal fences, distant trains,
hills and flatlands?
And what about the billboards?
Ambulance-chasing lawyers,
casinos with giant jackpots,
restaurants with Monday night
two-for-one specials?
And then there’s the place names.
Springfield. Somerville.
The exit signs.
The on-ramps.
The asphalt under-wheel.
Everything comes with a rush,
then whisks past.
I’m weary from the lack of impact.
Night approaches.
That’s better.
At least, the headlamps
are under my direction.
No more endless plains.
No more sprawling suburbs.
No trees.
No obscure tourist attractions.
No rhinestone capital of the world.
I’m on my way to where I need to be.
Between here and there,
I’m all there is to me.
The streets hiss at my approach.
Based on the medications I take,
this is to be expected.
Of course, they may not be streets.
They could just as easily be snakes.
If a man were to approach you
weaving and leaping away from
poisoned fangs and forked tongues,
you wouldn't think this was commonplace,
not even in this part of town.
You'd notice. Especially when he
grabbed you by the shoulders
and pleaded a breath's length
from your face, "Help me! I've been bitten."
You'd probably scream. I get that all the time.
You're the type who lives in a world
where roads are roads and cars drive safely on them.
You even cross at the lights. Big trucks
stop for you. I know your type. I was married
to one just like you. I never could convince
her that the sheets were woven spiders
or that her eyelids crawled with ants.
She divorced me naming, what she called,
an invisible spitting toad as correspondent.
She reckons I did the spitting. But look
at this leg - it's unmarked - which sure proves
I didn't bite me.
Yes, I am attached to those pills.
They stop me from…actually I forget...
it's been so long since I've done
what I shouldn't have been doing.
The worst of me has been replaced
by a menagerie - nothing friendly though.
I've been chased by rapid dogs.
I've been threatened by hawks,
trailed by vultures, invaded by roaches,
taunted by.. .ah yes, the face in the mirror.
What kind of creature is that anyhow?
Yes, go ahead. Call the ambulance if you must.
I've been swallowed by worse.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Qwerty, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and failbetter.


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