John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and International Poetry Review.
LIFE IN A FACTORY TOWN
It is a machine not a heart - a factory floor not a dance hall - funnel smoke not a walk down lover’s lane - raucous noise instead of warm words between two people -. it is the job not an encounter – the end result is not love but a gizmo – but you work and that’s attractive in some women’s eyes – so you will marry. raise a family – there’s more than one production line.
Lompico sandstone overlies basement rocks. But what does this have to do with tiny ornate china cups that line the mantle above her never-lit fireplace? And the Earth’s lithosphere is capable of suddenly releasing great bursts of energy. Is that why she holds down those heirlooms with one hand while she brushes them gently with the other? She knows terms like “tectonic shifts” and “Richter magnitude scale” to describe what looks like ordinary backyard in an average Los Angeles neighborhood. Her children are playing but there’s a worry in her face as she oversees them through the kitchen window. She’s expecting the ground to open up at any moment, for her brood to disappear down giant cracks. I wonder how she can live some place where the next fault could destroy a family, a house, a neighborhood. But then she comes back with a laugh, a shoulder shrug and “What are the odds?” I don’t think she’d ever care for a world made knowable.
MISSISSIPPI, SATURDAY NIGHT
Rutted road blanketed by darkness leads to rickety bridge, and small towns, alligator burps, frog timpani, starlight bogged down in swamp water, music rocking from a tavern jukebox, slow rivers whispering through the woods, summer lush and steamy and yet still dying of thirst, so it’s barbecue and beer in the shade of the magnolias. Conversation turns to those no longer with us, or the sparsity of good jobs, and whether this is still the best of places in which to live, and the old man who’s lived alone in that rickety old fishing shack, the one with a taste for feeling lonesome, and the game upcoming next Friday night. Someone strums an old guitar, sings REM songs, then “Free Bird”, another complains that it’s too damn hot to ever do something productive, so he doesn’t leave until long after midnight, and another tells the story of bluesman Robert Johnson, how he met up with the devil at the crossroads. Folks smelling of sauce, suitably soused, cussing everything from heat lightning to promises not kept, too numbed to be bothered by a slithering shadow that could be a snake, sleepless hollows under the eyes, frequented by droplets of sweat.