Friday, December 1, 2017




I must sit through this.
The violinist is family.
Itzhak Perlman is not.

The twelve-year-old on stage
in the school auditorium
is a nephew.
His instrument is no Strad,
just the best his parents can afford.

The chinrest presses against
callow bone.
Left hand fingers squeeze against the neck
as he grips the bow in his sweaty right.
At least he looks the part.

My obligations have taken me everywhere
from soccer matches to Christmas pageants.
I expect the worst
but am constantly amazed
that there are levels of awfulness
even beyond that.

At least Brahms is not the audience.
I quake here in his stead.
and his Vienna graveyard is far enough away
that there's little risk of his bones rolling over.

The performance begins.
Horsehair's supposed massage of wire
soon descends into torture.
My sister smiles with pride.
Her idea of the classics can't get beyond Bon Jovi.

Thankfully, it's soon over.
Heifetz will pick up where Junior left off.
The piece will be in safe hands once more.
Family can go back to being blood,
not giving it.


Joe and his old man
sit at the diner counter,
watch egg yellow
swarm around cigarette ash.

Dregs of orange in Joe's glass
are starting to attract the flies' attention.
The other sips black coffee
down to the stains on the bottom of the mug.

The conversation barely got beyond
the weather, politics and the Red Sox.
As a remedy for
"we don't do anything together anymore,"
it needs more work
than an isolated Saturday morning breakfast.

But now they've fallen into a nervous silence.
Waiting for the check to come
can be the longest time of all.
The waitress is busy with two guys
who insist on flirting with her.
They're skilled at it apparently
for she seems so reluctant to break away.

What have Joe and his father got to offer
compared to some sly remarks,
an occasional burst of laughter.

Neither suggests that they should
do it again some time.
Now they're waiting to pay.
As if they haven't been doing that already.


She buys books to read to her children.
Down from the shelves comes,
"The Wind In The Willows,"
"Alice In Wonderland" and 'The Snow Goose,"
favorites from when she was young.

But those children have grown
with offspring of their own.
"Come here," she says to her grandkids,
"and I'll read you a story."
But they have their tablets and their phones.
They make their excuses.
"She called me by my mother's name,"
says one to the other
once they're out of hearing.

So she reads them to herself.
Her audience is small but riveted.


JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Tau, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Examined Life Journal and Midwest Quarterly.  

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