John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and Sanskrit with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Owen Wister Review and Louisiana Literature.
FROM THE REAL BATTLE ZONE
Her nail fought hard against the itch
in her right shoulder. And he battled
the lint in his sweater to an honorable
draw. The kids were the combatants
who actually got to lay hands on one
another but just a push here, a kick
in the shins there. And just as prelude
to the real war: the boy versus all
fifty state capitals, the girl against
the knots in her hair. These were
skirmishes the news forgot in its lust
for bloodier confrontations. No suicide
bombers but a wine glass fell and shattered.
No bodies on stretchers but Band-Aid on
finger cut, dirty clothes in hamper.
According to a reporter in Iraq,
people are afraid. The streets are empty.
So the world is a dangerous place.
But try living elsewhere.
LOVE AT HIS SPEED
The speeding tickets in the glove compartment
don't say much for his obedience to one law at least.
He collects them like…
you bite your thought like it' s a tongue,
before the word "women" slips out.
He ignores the signs.
Should you ignore the one you made -
"Brenda, are you sure?"
And then he accelerates that convertible
on a straight stretch of highway
even though you beg him to slow down.
Your feelings, his needs,
and only one steering wheel.
Will it always be like this?
A crash? A breakup?
Blood or tears ~
they both pour from a vein.
He's going even faster.
Your heart plays ping pong with your throat.
You love him,
but not at this speed.
He slaps the wind around
like it's your face.
And whatever's in the rearview
gets what it deserves.
Finally, he stops, parks by an overlook.
"Lovely," you both say,
he for the drama, you for the stillness.
The cemetery forgets itself.
Every stone, every angel,
even that rich man's mausoleum
gleam with sun.
Where is the gloom my emotions promised?
Am I in the wrong place?
In truth, I expected rain.
a gray cloud drooping
over the graveyard
as if pulled on
by the unwitting magnetism of the dead.
But the sun shines broadly.
Amid all these names and dates,
it still finds time for photosynthesis.
It follows me and my bundle of flowers.
Then it's at my side.
And, finally, it somehow reaches
the grave ahead of me.
Is it playing devil's advocate?
Or more likely, it's antonym?
I'm here to be nothing but morose
and yet it offers a presence
at odds with those buried below me.
All around, there are pools of brightness.
Even the willows give up
all pretense of shade and shadow.
Can I really place my bouquet
and be happy doing so?
The word is dark, dammit.
Or if not, the last word in oblivious.