Poetry: 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.

MY FAVORITE THINGS                             Page One

It's Vienna of all places,
cold and old,
air swirls like waltzes
I don't want to dance to.

The band look like finger food
left all day on a plate,
don't play so much
as console their sad instruments.

Their sound is like a tape
recorded over and over
until the sharpness
is all muffled,

the resonance of glue.
Still, the bass player's
Monk in his heart,
the pianist's Ellington

to his fingers.
"Any requests," they ask,
and we're all mute
as the ashtrays on the tables

though in my thoughts
I'm saying, "yeah,
let it be '61,
Village Vanguard,

'Trane on sax,
Dolphy, Tyner,
Elvin Jones,
one of those panther moments

in a lifetime of
antelopes nibbling in the grass..,
spontaneous, visionary, improvised,
gut-squealing, mouth balling,

MY FAVORITE THINGS                             Page Two

jumping registers like dogs
through flaming hoops,
stretching the tempo out,
reshaping it like sculpture,

squeezing upper lower,
lower registers together
like sweaty bodies having sex.
The band respond to silence

with a by the numbers
version of "My Favorite Things,”
careful to include
none of mine.


Suddenly another life
is thrust squarely into mine.
And then there's the other eleven lives,
my fellow men and women of the jury
who, when the case in hand is not
up for discussion,
shunt their own cases to the forefront:
the lousy job, the errant husband,
the pain in the right leg that won't go away.

Before the defendant ever hears our verdict,
an entire life-style is found guilty,
a teenage daughter also, but with mitigating circumstances.
And then there's the government,
all agreed, a hanging matter.
But the jury finds a few innocents
in the hotbeds of crime in which they live...
mostly themselves.

The judge has given us ample direction,
has clarified some points of law.
And we have stared often enough
into the face of the young man in the dock
to bear that image to the grave.

But when it comes to each other.
we are all a jury in turn.
A mother of three confesses how
it's a relief just to get out of the house.
It's a sentence, she says, that can never be commuted.
A businessman keeps complaining
how this jury duty comes at a bad time for him.
A bad time finds the evidence stacked against it.

No one is above the law, so they say.
Thus the crush of those below the law.


I am mad because
I excuse my rings
from embarrassment.

Or there's no part
in jewelry's history of a life
for carbon as a gas.

I'm crazy because
I wrap myself in my
mother's for coat.

Maybe I'm just jealous
that no one wants
to wear my skin.

I'm a lunatic because
I choose., for company,
a glass of Vodka.

Damn, Ruskie.
What's wrong with Jim Beam?
Oh I agree,

I'm insane
when it comes to
starting up a car
in a locked garage.

But I am grounded.
They won't let me
anywhere near
the Lear jet
in the airless hangar.

Mad, crazy, lunatic, insane
because I didn't leave a note they say
as if forty years of notes
don't count.


There they are now.
No mystery, these deaths.
One fallen in the dry creek bed.
Another just dropped
where the grass gave out.
Not a moan, a groan,
just a Georgia O'Keefe painting,
you could touch if you'd the stomach.
No kid's pet names these.
No identities.
Just two of a thousand herd
that wandered, got lost, paid for it,
died as a vulture's luck,
a lizard's indifference.


I wonder if the stuff I left behind
has now become yours.
not just collecting dust on a mantel,
but emotionally embraced.
The Mexican vase for example.
“Madonna’s Greatest Hits.”
And especially
the baseball I snared in
the stands at Fenway Park,
and wouldn’t give to the small boy
no matter how he begged for it.
It’s in your keeping now.
You can have it mounted,
encased in glass.
Or toss it back and forth
to your new boyfriend
in the park.
Or dump it in the trash
for pickup Wednesday morning.
All of these things you did to me
when I was in your hands.
Now there’s just a baseball.
And I won’t be begging. 

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