You paraded under stars.
Aldebaran, Antares and Betelgeuse.
You were ecstatic enough to be drunk on
Jack Daniels, Pinot Grigio, Jose Cuervo.
You swayed beneath like-minded trees,
elm, oak and ash.
You were fresh-faced, innocent, sixteen,
and were named Anne, Christina and Michelle.
And the only witness to your joy
was me, me and me.
I'll never forget that time.
The many times won't allow it.
I'm always staking it.
Sometimes in a piece of paper.
Sometimes in a serious conversation.
When I wake up in the morning,
my shadow carries more weight.
But then reputation begins
to involve itself in proceedings.
It answers the telephone.
It powers up the laptop.
It even reports, without shirt,
to the bathroom mirror,
attempts to pass the physical.
My wife is in the kitchen making coffee.
She seems unaware of me
but already a cup awaits,
emboldened with my character.
And there's fried eggs, appropriate to my stature.
Sure, she loves me as a train wreck
but, to be honest, prefers someone of good standing,
in the household, in the community,
in the bathroom, shaving last night's stubble.
And there I go measuring my romantic repute
with a kiss on her left cheek,
risking my good name
with a curt opinion on the news,
swallowing breakfast at the vulnerable edge
of my preeminence.
And then it's out into the world
with all the other personages.
A renown passes me by.
A self-dignity walks ahead of me.
I'm greeted at the office
by distinction, magnitude and prestige.
Such stress, we're all just one
callous pinprick from our value's balloon deflating.
Truth is, at heart, we're contemptible trifles.
But please don't tell my reputation.
I'm all it's got.
I ASSURE YOU
Life is like that
even in a bank branch.
You can count money all day,
smile at customers
or walk the floor
with a make-believe pistol
on your hip
ensuring no one steals
the deposit slips.
Life's like that
even when you go out to eat
with your favorite guy
or go home to
your wife's frozen dinners.
Life is like that
even when you're a homeless guy
and living under a bridge
or a rich bitch
driven around town
in a Rolls Royce
and tipping with hundred dollar bills.
It's seventy degrees,
twenty percent chance of rain,
sunset is at 6.05
and the trains are running
a quarter hour late.
hides behind numbers.
John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in The Lyric, Vallum and the science fiction anthology, “The Kennedy Curse” with work upcoming in Bryant Literary Magazine, Natural Bridge, Southern California Review and the Oyez Review.