Tuesday, January 1, 2019




So what was it
like to have had
hippie parents,

live on a commune
until the age of twelve,
more brothers

and sisters than
there were hash pipes
in your hovel,

and every woman
over eighteen your aunt
if not your mother.

Okay, so you don’t
want to talk about it.
it’s an embarrassment

like something out
of one of those bad
Billy Jack movies.

At thirteen, you
had sat through
at least fifteen

Gratefiul Dead
concerts but
could hardly spell

your name “Rainbow.”
When did you change
it by the way?

When did a real
education intervene.
one that saw you

off to college
eventually and
into law school?

You don’t believe
in all that ashram,
karma, junk.

Live by rules
or live in shit,
you tell me.

You still see
your parents from
time and time.

He’s thin and bald
walks with a cane.
She’s still a mop

of gray hair to her ass
though her hearing’s
half-way gone.

You love them,
you confess.
But not because love’s free.


He is to misery as Polyhymnia is to musk.
Catch him on a good day and he will merely spit on you.
At his worst, he’ll fling the name of his youngest son at you
so as it strikes you high above the temple.
“William!” he screams. “William! William! William!
There are many of us in this town with William scars.

His heart’s as rancid as rotting fruit and his head’s no help.
He can’t separate in his mind the stores, the houses,
from the cow dung in the field.
And the people are just inmates so what’s it matter
that his crazies smack down their crazies
with a “William! William! William!”

See him coming and poets take to the trees.
Mothers hide their children, sans especially.
And lovers are especially afraid.
Two can’t be one, not according to his venomous logic.
One can’t even be one. And they’d better not try.
“William!” he screams, just in case.


So far, this pregnancy,
nothing has been stabbed,
broken, ripped apart.
The body takes no stand
against itself
even as it nurtures.
It’s all been a blunt pain,
a dull ache, a twist, a cramp.
But no explosions.
No rough thump to the heart.
Something takes shape
but leaves most other shapes alone.
And nothing has spoke up
from behind the swell of stomach.
No demands have been made.
It didn’t ask to come out early.
Or stay late in the womb.
But it’s a presence.
A soft kick like a kiss
on too tender a place.
Flesh and bone
making itself known.
She wakes to a sickness
she’ll remember as a healing.


JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Harpur Palate and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

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