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WHEN CUTTING FISH
By John Grey

 

 

WHEN CUTTING FISH

Concentrate on your finger
not the creature's eye.
Given half the chance,
the blade will slip,
the dead will stare right at you.

Don't spill blood.
Don't feel guilt.
Here on earth,
you need to know
when to take a life,
when to save your own.

It is not when cutting fish.
But this is a trial
as good as any.

 

 

SURVIVOR'S MAGIC

I perform magic tricks for the children.
What faith they have in grownups.
Even ones that shake a lot.
God, aren't I dreadful.
Rabbits and playing cards - ponderous.
The battle-scarred trembling hand
is still slicker than the child's steady eye.
And I am clearly not a civilian.
My tricks cut into their nascent brains like scissors.
God, these stupid boys and girls.
They have such faith in my tongue's sleight of hand.
I act as a kind of inverse agonist.

I've been in war but they don't know that.
I've seen the slaughterhouse,
have cowered below the nostrils of the beast.
And now look at me.
Even I can't make me out.

I mince. 1 blow my own stupid horn.
I make a coin disappear.
And there's even this thing I do with scarves
of all colors.
Much oohing. These are simple people.
They're what I risked my life for.
And, apart from killing, this is all I know how to do.
I'm a magician because I made it out alive.
Not because the egg is in my trouser pocket.

 

 

PERFECTION, PLEASE

I'm partial to the mopping up
of late September showers,
sun breaking through,
that sheen of hard rain cleaning out the streets.

And I like doors and windows open wide enough
for a flock of geese to honk through,
air blue to the touch,
trees glistening their green poodle coat,
everything brash and uneven but comfortable
as a large hardback chair with rounded
blue plush cushioned sheets, where I fit
as large as the breeze requires me to be
so as to flop my hair around.

Imperative is the company of a woman,
diminutive, delicately put together, but durable,
skin white as the underside of orange peel,
and eyes three shades to the better of lapis lazuli.

But it's none of this at the moment
so I'll let someone else be me for a while:
anyone willing to swelter in July
or feel the pinch of February's sharp predatory teeth.

I'm no sun-burnt fool, no winter play-maker.
I prefer weather that rises like a theater curtain,
that decorates its set according to my needs.
Temperature, light...
the woman's demure smile.

Ah earth, you spin and orbit enough.
But you still have time to set aside some perfect moments.
Especially now that I've shown you how it's done.

 

author

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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