John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Transcend, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Hawaii Pacific Review and Clade Song.
I’m back in Brisbane for a brief visit, paying a call on the old neighborhood, when I see her. I’m thinking this woman walking toward me is a girl I went to high school with. That’s why I slow down. And I can tell she’s looking at me as if there’s something familiar about my face. We’re both about to speak but, despite passing so close our breaths meet, neither of us utter a word. I wasn’t certain it was she. She, I’m sure, had her doubts about my identity. After all, that was thirty years ago. And who knows if there ever was a thirty years ago.
THESE ISLAND SOUVENIRS
Dwarfed by ships in harbor, a tiny port town rises, as sun briefs the fronds, the cane, to gild their best, while an old woman sets up a stall of souvenirs, while tourists cull their purses, rifle their wallets, to somehow buy enough to say they’ve been here, and a few wander off into the hushed cathedral of the forest, where gossamer torch of fern and fungi light the way or follow the signs to the magic cadences of the waterfall altar where worshiping is done with cameras. Then night, the ships pull out, candles are damped, chalice wiped and put away, flowers on the forest floor rise up from all that trampling. The island is alone at last. Wind rattles the skeletons of cheap commerce. Midnight's solemn martyrdom cries out from bitter stars.
A doctor dug the thing out of the victim’s brain. The bullet did its best make it through to the other side of the man’s head but that heavy skull was too much for it. The piece of metal was trapped in neural tissue. If it were a living thing, it would have seen light in the direction of the brow but darkness everywhere. What could the bullet have done with a brief blast of freedom anyhow? Embedded in a wall? Shattered a mirror, a window pane? If it were a tourist, it would have picked up, on its travels, the most amazing souvenir of all, an entire human being. Too bad, it no longer functioned. The bullet ended up being bagged as evidence in a hearing to determine whether this was a case of murder, suicide, or unfortunate accident. It was a mere crunched up slug of lead by this. It didn’t know from motivation. It just tried to look its best.