Two Poems by John Grey

In a Kenyan Village

So much mud, the women wear it in their hair,
it cakes the men’s bodies.
There’s not a wheel that turns
that doesn’t run on it.
A horse-drawn cart bears fish from
the muddy water up the muddy trail
to the mud hut kraal.
Mud grabs hooves like hands from graves.
Lucky if it makes it up the hill,
if it tastes goods muddy hay by noonday sun.
Goats continually unpin themselves.
The beggar’s muddy hand knocks on
the muddy windshield.
Spare anything that isn’t mud, he asks.
Along the roadside, men are boiling peanut oil.
Smells like mud. Dip your bread in it
and it tastes like mud too.
Children play in mud.
Teenagers toss it at old men
too muddy to bother to dodge.
In summer, they tell me,
it all turns to concrete
but for now, with spring rain briefly paused,
refueling, the world doesn’t turn,
it shambles, shakes off, shuffles.
A man is carving wood.
Why not mud?
It’s in the shape of an elephant,
huge tusks,
wide African ears.
It lumbers into shape
like a beast in a muddy bog.

Real Tears, The Sale Price

At funerals, I’m suitably solemn
but I cry at malls.,
Kneel me before the body,
send me down the gauntlet
of closest relatives,
sit me with the sobbing friends,
and I have logic and restraint enough
to keep my eyes from gushing.
But if a shoe store stands where a lake once did
or a food court rises from an orchard’s bones,
then just watch these irises redden
like gaping wounds,
and their taps drip down onto size tens,
the French fries.
Look at the expressionless dummies in the windows.
Real flesh and blood girls used to come here.
And who wants to buy a television
when I, my friends, the woods, the water,
were the program that transmitted
from this very spot.
The dead go to heaven and good luck to them.
But last year’s fashions go to the ‘marked-down’ table.
Can the past be far behind?

Profile: John Grey

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