PANTS ON FIRE I'm not really this upset but despair reads better on the page. And no one dips into poetry so they'll know how good I have it. They're searching for the anguished cry of someone worse off than them. So lying on a beach, I give them dark and dismal. High up on a mountain, I spread the verse with depths. In love and loved becomes, with a click or two of the keyboard, unwanted and alone. Poetry is the great lie. There, you heard it from me. So it must be untrue. ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS Now I prize the reformed alcoholics- all throats are dry, all keep this to themselves. Instead of ripping at their own skin, they sit in chairs too tight for trembling and let the process work. A month, says one. Almost a year, says another. Over two years, says a third. Together in one room, they are a calendar of willpower and abstinence. I drink to them by crushing the glass. in my hand. HE PART ONE He drinks. He embraces me like an old friend. He finds his life works best when people have never seen the like before. He has developed a number outside the realm of 0 through 9. He has the inside track He hasn’t seen his ex in years. He can make things out of stone and wood. He leaves it to others to light his cigarettes. He nibbles on whatever’s within reach. He tosses trash at the feet of the guy sweeping the sidewalk. He returns nothing he borrows.. He says he wants her exclusively for himself He survives off a settlement for a car accident. He transmits pleas skyward. CARL SMOKES Ten chimneys worth of vapor had climbed his nose, his cheeks, drawn by the amber of his eyes. His is the satisfaction of expression. And the relief that it works so well. For he is an illustration from out of poetry’s flaming words of poetry Though just the scaffolding for he has yet to write anything down. He’s staving off the pressure with a cigarette, while he craves the presence of a sperm whale that writes, with its fluke dipped in ink, in some elemental alphabet with giant letters. Yet he’s really clipped wings on a bird. The Ring Cycle minus the ring. A dropout from modesty and self-advisement. A prisoner behind a tall wire fence. The last breath of a trout in a net. No one is hypnotized by the yellow of his sun. No one reads anything into an empty page. RUSSET CONES I ask morning, as someone who is never really here, just how secure is this room, these floorboards, the walls, my body…and my life. The light says something like, “That’s my little secret. In the meantime, why don’t I just shine in your face.” I wonder in whose novel I have awoken. And why the fierce dog below is staring up at me. His concentration and my lack of gusto are appalling me. But I agree with the beast that maybe we could rassle later. I spend twenty minutes talking to the mirror with my diffident face on. But glass doesn’t recognize humility. It only speaks in emojis anyhow. My downward mouth cannot be held back. The woman at the kitchen table looks up at me from her incorrigible remoteness. How many years has it been since we first thought we could anchor each other. Now, she takes me for the back cover of a book – one that she puts back down, says, no I won’t be reading you today. She could, at least, skim through the damn thing! I try to not to say things that are merely anger. That’s what pen and paper are for. The lady of my life has perfected the silence, the obdurance, of the hill. I look out the window. Day is out there having followed me from upstairs. It’s quite colorful, to be honest. And not so distant that I can’t step out into it. “Good question,” it says, when I haven’t even asked it anything. “If you’re looking for the russet cones of red spruce, focus on the top of the tree.” I had not intended to. And yet, maybe I just will.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.