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Fall 1999, Volume 17.1



John Grey photo of John Grey.

John Grey is an Australian born poet, playwright, and musician. His latest chapbook is
Pointing The Gun from Dark Regions Press. His work has recently appeared in The South Carolina Review, Plainsong and Borderlands.


Painting Lessons

Among the hemophiliacs,
be careful of the color blue,
they said,
be wary of Cubist's heads
and faces that might seem too real.
This is therapy, not art.

Not sure how to paint therapy,
I took them out onto the veranda,
free as possible from the
smell of linen and Lysol,
in full view of sun and meadow
and even people walking.

They watched me for an hour or two,
nervously followed my instructions,
my simple brushstrokes
calling up a flower
from my imagination,
struggling to rein in
their haughtiness
in sympathy with the awkwardness
around me.

Not that they had forgotten roses,
but they no longer associated them
with gardens and growing,
and their hands were too well trained
by nurses to do their own bidding.

They gasped at my humble effort.
I walked the gauntlet of theirs,
sad blue faces,
heads like gnarled trunks, and roses, flowers in name only,
more like redcoated doctors
nodding from fresh water
or sometimes, pale memories
fading in thick green soup.


On Graveyard Hill, Remembering Josie

Amid the marble ruins,
I cry out like a slave
to pain, to fear.

The noise terrifies me
in the leaving
but I wish it well.

I will stay
and shout down the unfairness,
stand on my heart
if I have to
just to make me higher,
make me louder.

I will holler
until the wolves bow down,
until the wind lets go
the air's pale throat,
until the moon,
the milk of Corinth,
pours like a jug
into my gaping mouth,
until my song hovers above me
like a skylark,
too light, too hopeful
for the dead to be,
until you
or what created me
takes me back.

I will stand my ground here
and wail
until the world becomes beautiful.


The Death of Yard Work

Maples rattle brash leaves
against the black suits of the funeral.
The retriever waits out the death
of its master quietly, patiently,
like riding out a storm.

Night, as if not sure what to
leave in, takes it all out.
Nothing can be seen, nothing is familiar
until our grieving feet crunch down
on dead leaves and pine needles.
At the mouth of the garage,
the casual grace of the dog's
unwitting mourning stirs memory
but can't do a thing about the yard.

Inside is neat as the lawn is not.
The muffled chime of midnight
tips the dog off to its own loneliness.
Its ceaseless howl
becomes a running commentary on
all our unraked yards.


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