June 5, 2015

Three Poems By John Grey: Sunset, Santa Cruz County

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Mudfish and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit and Louisiana Literature.  

Cattle Sunset


an old juniper glows,
its bark like alligator hide,
cones shine pink and purple.
A pregnant cat
flops out the front door of the hut,
dozes beside a dish of water.

Dry wind blows,
barn heaves
like an old man's breath.
Horse clip-clops across
the light-brown soil
they call the casa grande,
With a tug of rein,
rider keeps its mind on forward motion.

Horizon flares.
Cattle trace their steps home.
Darkness travels all the way
from distant mountains.
It's a fact in Tubac
or a memory elsewhere.


Saints glow around the head ,
but suffer in the eyes
from all the good they do -
is it my fault
they're assigned to the world?

in church school corridors,
I try to make them work the harder,
line the wall with my imagined spit,
juggle books and orange
and paper and pens.
with tiny hands and a fool grin –
antics don't come any more daring
even as everything tumbles down
when the bell rings -

but despite their painted stares,
the saints are oblivious -
it doesn't even worry them
that their heads are on fire -
I don't know what else I can do
to show my insolence -
a moustache for Saint Barnabas?
if only I could reach –

Sister Eileen strides by -
no halo, no warmth,
just a habit,
black to match her moods
and a glare stiff as brass -
I’d offer her my orange
if she’d promise me to choke on it –

I'm surrounded by religion in all its guises
pious, beatific, stern and malicious -
ancient wonders, prim-voiced dictators,
all organized to aid the memories
of math and Jesus and America and Job -
of receptors, axons, neurotransmitters,
for the good despicable child of heaven.


in a Japanese restaurant
I sat on the floor barefoot
ate noodles with chopsticks

in a room with
a view of San Francisco harbor
I stretched out on the blankets
rereading Kerouac
for the hundredth time

I remember the seaweed
and fields of rice,
growing out of my plate
and the anxious waitress
who hovered over
my fingers’ clumsiness

and blessed Cindy
who soothed my tawdry flesh
with slender touch
toppling over pain like dominoes
while inking invisible tattoos
down my back

and the food tasted foreign and familiar
and her touch
was as exotic as royalty
and yet easy and friendly

the way I might do it
if it were just me
in this room
and I'd never eaten Japanese
and there weren't something
about tossing away
pieces of clothing like skins
and the sea-breeze didn't blow
in from Sausalito
one precious finger at a time

~John Grey

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