Three Poems

By John Grey

 
Stone Free
 
Another poem.
Another assault, insult.
A questioning.
A brutal honesty.
An exposé.
Luckily, there's no more stonings.
No crowds with rocks
hurling them pell-mell at
blasphemers, adulterers,
thieves and homosexuals.
And poets, of course.
No one suffers the
stone from a neighbor,
a sharp projectile
pelted by an old friend.
There's law-courts now,
or haughty whispers
or letters to the editor
or clowns on talk radio.
These days, being condemned
lacks for immediacy,
for clear manifestation
of “okay then,
tell me how you really feel."
How it must have been
in the old days,
the mob in all their vengeful glory,
the victim battered and broken,
reeling from bloody humiliation,
dropping down dead in the town square.
Now, only those without sin
get to cast the first stone.
I'm here.
They're out there somewhere.
But nothing draws them
to this spot.
 
 
Hello Stranger
 
Oh crap! This is not me.
Wake up and I swear I'm somebody else
this morning.
I shake the woman next to me.
Excuse me. Who am I?
She goes right on sleeping.
So it's up to the mirror.
Hands, arms, legs, and
those mussed up curls of hair.
Am I Harpo?
No, I can speak. Words come out
of a stranger's mouth.
So maybe that's who I am.
The guy who talks to himself.
The woman is stirring now.
I'll use her for a reference work.
But what if I'm not listed.
A man has to be somewhere
so I'd better make like I belong.
This is actually a great opportunity to invent myself.
What can I be? Romantic?
Have to clean the teeth first.
Cultured? Better comb the hair.
I always wanted to be as rich
as Croesus but what if I can't afford it.
"Hi," she says.
Not surprised to see me here, that's something.
She even grants me a partial hug
as she skims by.
I'm familiar. I can build on that.
Maybe I'm familiar with a flair
for making coffee.
Or familiar with a great desire
to read the newspaper.
Or familiar with that usual tease of,
"I dreamed about you last night."
I'm familiar enough, at least,
to follow her down the stairs.
"I'm dreading this funeral," she sighs.
Whose funeral? Can't be mine.
She's staring right at me, aching for comfort.
Attractive woman. And Sylvia-Plath-like sensitive
So that's what I'll be...just for her sake... alive.
 
 
In Bed With a Real Person
 
I lie beside you nights,
imagine some rousing choruses
of your bad singing
and the time you stumbled
and spilled my birthday cake.
 
I look at you in sleep
and can only think of
the pairs of shoes in your closets,
flats and heels,
sneakers and dress.
 
I hold your soft hand
but set off staccato bursts
of snoring,
and a restlessness
that doesn’t quite wake you.
 
I hear you moan
credit card numbers in a dream
but I don’t know
who you’re speaking to,
what you’re buying,
how much it will cost.
 
As you turn away from me,
you’re like a small-boned pole revolving,
a balloon that can’t quite soar
and now settles on the grass.
 
And then I remember that romantic soul
who said she loved me three times a day
but only had to leave the once
to give lie to all previous words.
 
As I stroke your back
I feel the luck of a sort
that comes from knocking down cans
with balls
at carnivals.
 
I shout like a winner
in the canal of your ear.

John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dalhousie Review, Thin Air and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Qwerty, Chronogram and failbetter.