I am an Australian poet, US resident. I collect early editions of Mad Magazine, play guitar, and love theater and travel amongst many other things. My poems recently have been published in New Plains Review, Big Muddy and Sanskrit and others.
The Gathering of the Clan
A body occupies the hospital bed,
so still, so stiff, it's like it's lying in state.
A hole's been burned in the brain.
Alzheimer's disease, they call it.
We're both a little bewildered.
Is this really our father?
Conversations with dad lately
have been like dogs furiously digging up the back yard
in search of that recently buried bone.
Our mother says he knows his childhood well enough.
But what's the use of that? We weren't there.
And his hand in hers
cannot help him find the way out of the maze
that is the names of those present.
Her recall's also starting to fade.
But she insists, in heaven,
the two of them plan to remember everything.
So, in her eyes, he's no more than
a future date in the clouds.
But to me, he's a prelude to an urn with ashes,
an excuse for fine, upstanding people
to say "sorry" to our faces,
just so we can thank them for coming.
Yes, he's a death certificate in waiting,
a gasp of breath that keeps asking,
"How long have I got?"
It's hard to find a trace of the superman of old.
In some places he's gone so soft,
he doesn't even know how to piss in a bowl.
He makes me conscious of my own fragile roots.
so short-lived in fact, I sometimes wonder why life bothers.
And he's got me thumbing through the newspaper
just so I can side with the obituaries,
question the tenancy of my own mind and body.
He doesn't know it but he's spoiling it for the rest of us.
For death is closing in from all sides.
Even survival is out for blood.
The Conversation Stops Dead
It was one of those conversations
where everyone seemed to know more than me.
Or when it was my time to be included,
everybody was looking at their watches.
Murmurs had risen to a crescendo
but when I stuck my head into the heated talk
it was as if nothing had even been said.
My look said, "I'm part of this aren't I.
Why won't you tell me what's going on?"
But no one was prepared to take on that responsibility
So words kind of circled. Sentences closed up shop.
The truth was a club. No one wanted me as a member.
I merely got the arm around the shoulder, then the pat on the head.
Either I was too young or it was about me.
Or the whole thing was gossip. And I lacked the common ear.
Benefit Street, 11.00 PM
Benefit Street haunts me
like it must have done Poe.
I keep checking my watch
to make sure it's not 1840.
It's dark and cold.
There is no proof of anything
but the clap of shoes on concrete.
It starts to rain, a fine drizzle.
Scattered lights take on
the responsibility of life.
Poe was here, courting a woman,
his dark thoughts circling unrequited love.
I've been visiting friends,
am merely walking to my car.
A friend warm and dry
in a second floor apartment -
what do I have in common with him?
But a man beset by terrors of the pen
and the disappointments of the world?
This is a boulevard of his ancient footprints.
And tonight, I'm the only one walking in them.
I'm surprised there are not more of us.
©2015 John Grey