By: John Grey
ETERNITY AND ME
Nothing is as eternal as a Sunday morning,
a sermon that stretches from Big Bang to the end of time,
and readings from the Bible, longer than the Bible itself.
I was seven years old. The age of reason but not
of reasonableness, thank you, Thomas Aquinas.
The age of fidgeting. The age of the powerless.
The age of my First Communion,
the wafer-like paste, the wine barely touching my lips
before the priest jerked it away.
My parents kept insisting I was old enough,
but old enough for what? To be beatifically bored?
To go through the motions of the good child?
Sunday dinner followed – the meal of the week.
And as long as a wet one. No quick bite
and out into the backyard playing fields.
My mother carried the roast beef
as solemn as if she were walking between pews.
My father carved from his head of table altar.
Unless you count the slow, deliberate slice of blade
through meat, no sermon from his lips.
It surely spoke of God to me.
Outside, a leaf tumbled from an oak branch.
Inside, I played with my food when no one watched.
Outside, what really does last forever,
did its best to be of the moment – a wanton cloud –
a cheeky bird – a ball flying through a neighbor’s air.
Inside, I ate enough, long enough to deserve desert.
THE WINTER BEAST
Winter’s the beast, invisible and savage.
It trails my father and me
on our trudge to the shed.
But it’s out in front of us also.
And hard beneath our feet.
And its fierce, bitter lungs
are blowing dark out of the sky.
Docile cows nibble on hay,
udders like overblown bagpipes,
as we sit on stools,
head to their bellies,
knead teats like dough,
shoot a stream of milk
into a can.
The beast bites the hand,
nibbles on cheeks, lips, noses,
even nips at the boot-covered toes.
If we weren’t busy milking,
it would devour us.
There’s little conversation,
though breath speaks in cartoon balloons,
tiny puffs of white.
The beast thinks they’re directed at him,
swallows their emptiness whole.
ALL OF OUR NEIGHBORS
I apologize for knowing the names of people,
not just the next-door neighbors,
but the ones five houses down,
and the couple who live in the trailer
out back of that uninhabitable shack.
I am addicted to “Hello.”
Yes, it is a burden.
And it embarrasses me sometimes
like when someone says in response,
“Do I know you?”
But my sensibilities are insistent
that if you’re going to appear friendly,
why not back it up with words.
In your mind,
the people you know are enough.
Like seven days in a week are optimum.
Or five fingers on a hand.
But Mrs. S has a husband in treatment for cancer.
And Miss Y…such a lovely way she has about her,
for talking a lot but saying nothing.
You’re almost afraid of expanding our circle,
of letting minor acquaintances in.
They complicate, and they don’t bring comfort.
But Mr. D is adept with a weed whacker
and we’re just as safe.
Young JB is working on his basketball dunk
and his dribbling doesn’t move the earth one bit.
They’re only people.
Strangers, just not the complete kind.
Think of them as an indulgence.
And then, don’t think of them at all.
Bio: John Grey
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Hollins Critic.
Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline, and International Poetry Review.
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