Three Poems by John Grey

SOUTH SEA VACATION

You can never
have enough souvenirs apparently.
Tourists flock the stalls.
The more they buy
the more they can say they were there.

Palm fronds flutter,
waves link up with a golden shore,
a volcano cooks in the background,
but none of these are for sale.

The motel’s so close
to the water
it’s like the ocean is just
another guest.
Tonight, there’s a fish fry.
Everyone’s dressed in floral shirts,
so maybe the landscape will take the hint.

And then there’s the entertainment
as the locals find out just in time
they’re really natives,
dress and dance accordingly.


SHERIFF RIVER

This stream was a snake in a previous life.
It defies the earth it cuts through to make it straighten.
Why take the quickest route when you can bend
and curve through farm-land, around houses,

under bridges, through the town not once but thrice.
It must imagine itself as seen from above. Maps bury
the quickest path between two points. But geography
kowtows to a sidewinder. Forget the towns.

It’s the Sheriff River and its willow posse.
It’s unpredictable. It’s ornery. It doesn’t scoop up the clay and
kick it downstream but prefers to slosh it from side to side.
Its current is a kick-step: quick, slow, quick, slow.

Kids can’t run along its banks fast as their rubber soles
can take them. Its bends are the enemy of momentum.
They have to slow or veer off the path. It’s a better teacher
than that bespectacled ma’am with her gray hair in a bun.

The stream may yet be a snake but it doesn’t bite. It
cools the dangling toes, feeds the prancing fish-hooks.
The eye can’t follow it for more than a hundred yards or so
and a canoe’s not worth the trouble. But it’s always been

there, always will be. High school graduation. Runaway horse.
First kiss. Broken-down jalopy. Barn fire. Truth is, it’d be straight
as a plumb line if it weren’t for all this living. For it’s
years that are its detours. It’s people are its deviations.


IN THE A.M

Morning
takes its cues from
knuckles rubbing eyes,
footsteps descending stairs,
the rattle of cups,
kettle hiss.

Light doesn’t do it,
not even the burning off
of dew.
It needs people
and the noise they make.
It requires them moving,
with each sip of coffee,
scrub of teeth,
looking less and less
like sleep.

Morning won’t get
the day going
unless it knows
that there’ll be someone
using it.


Profile: John Grey

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