Tuesday, October 1, 2019



After The Funeral

Funeral’s over, I’m back at the house.
The place feels close, pore-clogging, as if damp from rain.
But weather’s clear out, as bright as the service was somber.
The sun is anxious to get things, growing, blooming.

No matter the room I’m in, I can’t get that
smell of mildew out of my nostrils.
But the house is as dry as Uncle Bert’s humor.
And it didn’t smell like this before I got the news.

So, despite the ambitious, welcoming outside,
there’s no escaping the tenor, the atmosphere, within.
It has followed me from the graveyard.
Though not in the coffin, I’ve been buried a little too.

Well, why not. I’m supposed to mourn.
Why shouldn’t mourning home-decorate?
Let it lengthen the shadows, dim the lights.
Ashes to clamminess. Dust to soggy skin.

It will wear off eventually.
Death’s a long time for the dead
but a short span in the days of those still living.
And it’s just a phase for a house.

It will revert eventually to the décor intended,
utile, comforting, even smile-inducing.
But, for now, it must bear the burden of a cancer victim.
So it succumbs to the ritual, goes easy on the hereafter.

These Mills

Not a day goes by I don't see one.
Some abandoned.
Some converted into artists' lofts
or even condominiums.
And streams still rush by,
their power unwanted,
nary a water wheel left behind
to even splash with memory.

Mills are here
but the stories aren't.
Did men haul and cut heavy timber?
Did women ever spin cotton twelve hours a day?
Were fingers blackened with dye,
eyes red with corn dust?

No looms, no saws,
no threshing machines...
though sometimes, at Christmas,
an ancient unmarried uncle
can barely remember that
he worked there as a boy.
Uncles too, in their way,
are abandoned or converted.

The Deer

Deer arrive every morning,
slip from their forest home,
sniff about the edges of human habitation
before taking their hunger out
on our hydrangeas.

The bottom of the yard runs deep to shadow.
There's safety in pools of dark.
Brown fades to black.
Only white spots and tail give them away.

For all their camouflage,
we're still a fixture at the kitchen window
or on the porch.

The prick of their ears,
stiffening of spindly legs,
assure us that they're aware
of our presence.
But they have trust in distance.
And our scents, alien as they may be,
make plain we're not coyotes.

It's a compromise
like all of nature.
We don't come any closer.
They delight us with
a steady stream of newborns.
We sacrifice the far reaches of the garden.
They don't bother our treasures
that grow nearer to the house.

As does dip into succulent leaves,
and fawns nibble and frolic
in the one faltering step,
a buck stands on hind legs,
licks down a branch-load of berries.

I stand and watch.
They do much more than I am doing.


JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in that, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie
Review and failbetter.

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