SMALL TOWN IN OHIO
By John Grey
There was a father once
who raged from Maine to California,
who must have figured only metal survives,
so he would always be metal,
backed up with fists
thick and hard as the stone blocks of sculptors,
and a thirst like a desert lion’s.
He is not here
in this simple cottage.
This is the sober father,
the one awkward, timid even,
who cries while reading in a parlor chair
when a book plot requires a dog’s demise.
These are eyes continuously washed clean
so that the inside light shows
to whoever might go looking.
He had one of those other fathers for his own.
It’s a secret he occasionally spills
like a drop or two of coffee
that he immediately mops up.
The book is of lives gone dreadfully wrong.
Not just the dog but the people in it end badly.
He regrets ever starting it
but then again, life can’t always be about
the smooth, even boring passages,
or the occasional dark time
with its miraculously happy ending.
He often says that the last chapter
is like the boy who tries to be good
but is overwhelmed by what it takes to please some people.
Of course, it could be that
the writer just didn’t love his protagonist enough
to want to save him.
Either way it’s just fiction.
Or a small town in Ohio.
I remember you showing me your words
in an East Side coffee shop,
the awkward giddy ones
that bridged girlishness and young womanhood.
I was overcome by the roles
the situation forced me into –
audience, teacher, protector
and the one I feared the most –
Beauty, being skin deep,
should remain that way
until a man can catch his breath.
But I had little time to deal with the surfaces.
Your poems immersed me
before I was even ready.
All I could do was pontificate
and I hate that in me.
I felt like an older brother.
And, heaven forbid, a father.
I was nervous offering you advice
because, whatever I gave you
would have to include me.
Any comment from biased lips
was just me making up your mind for you.
You wanted, at worst help,
at best, confirmation.
I was neither one of those.
In the end, I really did have nothing to say.
I left you with what you knew already.
Your own way through the world is how we left it.
And a clink of cups, maybe the nervous stir of a spoon
JUST WHEN I THINK I CAN RELAX
I’m slowed to evening’s speed,
breakneck frozen, filled with, comfort,
arid then a door-knock; the last word
Silence and newspaper
interrupted by a neighbor’s need
to talk by rote,
his body on the step
preventing the moon
from harvesting inside.
Same measures by which
the human frailty is exposed…
sports talk, politics, even a word
or two about the wife who left
him for the butcher.
From time to time,
the giant blade comes down,
severs the squealing pig.
He’s caught me at a moment
when I’m nothing but myself,
no wish, to share that slow growing epiphany.
For an hour or more of small talk,
I ache to return to who I am.
the one thing I thought
was safe to try at home.
About the Author:
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Front Range Review, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly.