John Grey

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.

RECOGNITION

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.

THE BULLET

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.

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