It's okay to stare. I'm missing a leg.
No, your kids aren't embarrassing me.
I was handed a rifle and a uniform
and told shoot first and wear the colors proud.
I fired a few rounds here and there.
I can't say for sure that I hit anyone.
I was close by when the car exploded.
Flying metal cut my leg off like a saw.
A piece of something lodged in my skull.
I can't quite pronounce the place where it happened.
It was Kabul or Baghdad or one of
ten thousand other hot dry places.
I took orders. I marched. I ate in the mess.
I don't know why we went only why I went.
Because I was told to, that's why.
That was my job - to be told.
I'm free of that now.
No way I get my old job back.
The neighborhood's not ready
for a one-legged shelf stacker.
I’m waiting for a bus that will take me home.
It's a small enough place that my return
will mean something.
My mother promised me a band.
The goodwill will last a day or so.
Then I'll just slide into my old self,
without the job like I said,
and the girl but she was never mine anyhow.
I'll have to do something about all those right pants' legs.
If some guy comes back missing his left,
maybe we can work something out.
I'm not bitter. Well maybe my missing leg is.
I'm to be fitted with a prosthetic limb.
They say all the troops will be coming home soon.
We've patched up these countries as best we can.
We'll have to see if the prosthetic holds.
BURNING OF THE CANE FIELDS
North of Innisfail,
fields pulse with fire,
cane cut close to earth
gleams like feldspar -
sun's ripped by murk-light frenzy,
earth scorched hi eucalyptus grease
and sizzling sugar remains
steamed through ashy stalks -
fields are mowed by flame,
air swells with blood and smoke,
trees welter, blister,
and the houses, bleak and brown,
as always, keep cool with sweat,
hold on –
then gold-black sky
is split by thunder,
hot rain falls,
but red still alive
glows in the dirt,
searing feet and
cooking black snakes -
late at night,
awaits breath and cool,
a wind not of its making.
Eden, still resplendent
as long as night's
the painter of its light.
All that lovely solitude
projected on a darkening matte.
Rustles persevere from tree to tree.
But in the soundless heavens,
such a lovely soiree!
Stars in decay?
Not on my watch.
Stars, the cool wind
Their luster is the fire of eyes.
Tumults of accord
redden the glowing coals.
John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in International Poetry Review, Sanskrit and the science fiction anthology, “Futuredaze” with work upcoming in Clackamas Literary Review, New Orphic Review and Nerve Cowboy.