Stomachs full,
time for softball,
maybe a splash in the lake,
or a wander through the stalls
with beer in hand,
checking out the artefacts,
the honey made by local bees,
the fudge.

There’s music to listen to –
an Elvis impersonator
though most of the kids
don’t know who Elvis was.
And there’s a living statue,
a young woman painted green,
holding up a torch –
either the Statue of Liberty
or a Martian.

Of course,
there are always girls to look at,
so many of them
in t-shirts and skimpy shorts,
giggling together
while we pretend lack of interest
by strutting through their sight-lines.

Some gray-haired bank managers
and truck drivers
are gathering on the bandstand
with their instruments,
ready to bless us with some tuneless Sousa music
once Elvis leaves the park.

It’s the same every year at the town picnic.
We guys just take on different roles
as the years pass by.
We’d just scream and jab each other in the arm once.
Now, we’re adolescents on the make.
In times to come,
we could be head of a family spread out
on a blanket.
And then, once of those would-be musicians,
bassoon tucked under the arm.

A couple of old-timers sit on a bench,
They watch the activities
but partake of none.
We’ll never be them.
We have to draw a line somewhere.


Want to know why
my body’s swaying.

Because there’s melody in me,
a head orchestra,

a heart soloist,
even a colon rock band.

That’s why my fingers snap
or tap on tables.

Or I hum when all
else is quiet.

I never inquire
why you are so still.

For I don’t want to know
that your bones

can’t play an instrument,
your flesh is atonal,

your bloodstream
wouldn’t know a platelet

from a G natural.
Let’s just continue

making sweet music together.
So what if I’m

rocking, jamming,
on the stage,

and you’re down there
cramped and soulless in the audience.

The result is still
some kind of show.


She doesn’t have her father’s phone number,
nor his address, and only a rough idea
of the part of the country where he’s living.
So she can’t call or write to him,
give the usual news bulletin on
the kid’s sicknesses and recoveries
and how well they’re doing in school.
Nor can she relate Tad’s latest job,
how he’s enjoys the job
but it doesn’t pay so well.
He could be in California,
because he always said
that’s where he was headed
when he met her mom.
But he may just as easily have
set up camp in the Arizona desert,
or the Colorado mountains,
anywhere a man can go
that’s just this side of oblivion.
If she knew, she might even visit,
though she hasn’t got over her anger
from when he’d left.
But he’s her father –
the only one she’s got,
the only one she hasn’t got.


They’re an interminable current,
a stream aching for an ocean to be lost in,
but they’re backed up now,
spilling to the sides
or flowing into the ones behind.

They come from nowhere.
and voices urge them back there.
Or greet their arrival
with a sneering “no.”
By the time they reach the border,
they’ve heard everything.

Mothers press against gates.
Children beg with their eyes.
But there’s nothing they can say
that can get them past the guards.
It’s all small and lonely voices
where they come from.


I read the death notices,
over coffee, in the morning.
Then Martha calls.
At last, a life notice.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and International Poetry Review.