Wednesday, April 1, 2020



Obit For A Street Musician

The newspaper lied.
You were not the son
of parents who’d long since
disowned you,
nor the brother of a man
you hadn’t spoken to in years.

Your only surviving relative
was a beat-up saxophone
that you played on street corners,
or outside the local Triple A
baseball stadium on game days.
And even that instrument,
most folks agree,
should have been buried
with you.

But newspapers can’t get
their fonts around
street musicians –
are they just bums
with a gimmick
or unheralded geniuses
ignored, dismissed,
into early death?

And then when there’s
someone like you,
they’re totally mystified.
You had a roof
over your head.
You blew your sax
because all else was boredom.

The newspaper could
have said –
no more jazz
for a quarter
at the corner of Ames and Water streets.
But they printed an obituary.
They got the dead part right.
But it was as if you’d never lived.

The Cotswold Village
 Where Your Grandmother Was Born

Your visit is like opening
a book of stories,
so familiar from what’s been read to you
even though you’re not a character in them.

But the church,
the thatched-roof houses,
the Jacobean manor,
the Pub with the swaying
highwayman sign –
each is a paragraph
whose wording you remember.

Same for the silvery river.
The fields where sheep roam
like clouds of wool on hoofs.
And the graveyard.
Was death ever quainter?
So many stones bear your last name.

You stop for tea and scones
at “Hannah’s Tea Shoppe.”
The owner’s name is Daisy.
But she’s Hannah in Daisy’s book.

Dying Bird

Everything is out of order,
takes some getting used to.
In the raspberries,
dying bird,
you try to cover it with a tissue.

You feel, with delicate fingers,
head ballooning,
muscles weakened,
wings broken on ruffled chest.

It's like a berry
that dropped without being picked,
tasted or left
to listen to
its own fading heartbeat
or ferment in the sun.

Most of life you take for granted:
chipping sparrow nest,
eggs, detached berries, instinct,
red-rimmed leaves -
shadows of memory
in a bird opening its mouth,
chin up, face in a heap,
your mother perhaps,
yes even her.

You kneel
in the gaze
of small pupils,
proof of another flesh,
white of the skin -
you break the crust,
your body echoes,
another's needs unmet,
trickle of blood
like berries in a pouch.


JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Transcend, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Hawaii Pacific Review and Clade Song.

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