John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and the MacGuffin.
The work of John Grey has been previously featured in In Parentheses
It’s age that gets you in the end, not war.
Your battles are sequenced with Korea,
the two World Wars.
Vietnam is no longer personal.
Not now that it’s moved
from TV and newspapers into history books.
Besides, the desert is the only theater
that counts these days.
Roadside bombs strike armored divisions.
No one’s up in the trees
picking off soldiers one at a time.
“Body count” has become a meaningless term.
Some of those killed back then
would be dead by now even if they hadn’t served.
Even the drugs that got you through
the worst of it, during and after,
have long passed out of your system.
Nobody asks what was it like back then.
Not now that Hanoi, Saigon, the Tet Offensive,
are just answers to multiple choice questions.
So here comes age,
the enemy that pretends to be your friend.
You lie back, don’t bother to fight,
just let it come.
So maybe it is your friend after all.
Sun’s going down.
I could be lonely
when it’s totally dark.
The only light
in my life
will be attached to the ceiling,
by my finger on the switch.
There’ll be no other.
that isn’t of my hands’ own making.
that I don’t speak.
For all the sun’s power,
it can’t stay in the sky forever.
Shadows are already
taking up position.
is in the wings.
Daylight isn’t much
but at least we humans share.
Darkness lacks community.
Bulbs are solitary.
And they are easily replaced.
FOLLOWING THE WAKE OF AUNT JUNE
Sorry, I can’t tell you
how elephants die.
All I know is that
is a secret one,
in the middle of savanna,
or dense jungle.
You’re old enough to understand
that death comes to us all
like shadow that keeps spreading
beyond the culpability
of our bodies.
I don’t think
that kind of darkness bothers them.
They’re not philosophers.
They don’t write poetry.
Whether it’s the pain in the knee joints
or the deterioration of their teeth,
they’re more attuned
to it being their time
and leave the herd appropriately.
Where they go to die remains a mystery.
And now you’re asking me
about elephant heaven.
Two mysteries for the price of one –
is that it?
All I know is
that the baby elephant
does not ask its mother
The truth is that
the elephant is the
largest, heaviest land mammal.
And yet its death
is taken lightly.
SIX GOOD YEARS AND THEN…
Emma has six good years
before she reaches that horrifying milestone.
That’s over two thousand days
without slipping and falling on the sidewalk,
or arriving some place
with no clue as to why she’s there,
or being unaware of the names in the news
or any names for that matter.
For six years,
she’ll be easily able to remember
her computer password,
to answer all her emails,
show up on time for that gathering
of her cronies in the coffee shop,
while not thinking about a mechanical stairlift,
being shipped off to a nursing home,
how much money she’ll leave her children.
Of course, the six years won’t all be pleasure.
She’ll still have to argue with her daughter
about why she’s not on Facebook
and doesn’t carry a debit card
And listen, over and over,
to her son-in-law’s warning
about internet scam artists who prey on the old.
“The fact is, Bobby,” she likes to say.
“I am not old. I go for long walks.
I play some pretty mean
shuffleboard at the park.
And I can repeat scenes from ‘The Sopranos’
that’d make your comb-over curl.”
In six years, she’ll be eighty.
That’s when the big change will occur.
She’ll have to pause, tell herself,
“In six years, I’ll be eighty-six.
But what a six years they’ll be.”
JOSH AND THE LIGHT
Josh is adhering to Dylan Thomas’s principles
and raging against the dying light.
Not raging exactly. More imbibing.
And there’s all that on-line porn to be considered.
He’s masturbating against that insistent light.
And he has children and children’s children
to bewail with how better it was in his day.
So he looks on the dying light as a hook
trying to drag him off-stage
when he still has so much to say.
He’s dodging and weaving against the dying light
and his tongue flaps the whole time.
And he has his James Bond DVD’s of course.
He won’t go until he’s viewed them all once again,
has informed everyone who doesn’t care to listen
that there’ll never be another Sean Connery
Except, of course, in those pictures of him
as a young man in his twenties.
Back then, he had a license to kill the dying light.
Sure, he complains about the temperature.
Too hot or too cold and often at the very same time.
He’s trying to confuse the dying light with contradiction.
There are times when he’s had it with living,
wouldn’t mind the peace, the surety,
of a light with nothing more to give.
But there’s always a chance his team might win.
Or his estranged eldest son might call.
He’s stalling the dying light with current standings
and future fixture list.
And, if that doesn’t work, he’ll embrace
the last few streaks of brightness,
cry out its precious name.
From the Editor:
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Founded in late 2011, In Parentheses prides itself upon analysis of the current condition of intelligence in the minds of these young people, and building a hypothesis for one looming question: what comes after Post-Modernism?
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