Tuesday, April 01, 2008
This month features John Grey and William Doreski
THEY WERE WHAT THEY DID
The man has pigs.
What does that mean?
He flops in mud, eats slop?
He's coming to date
your sister, they say.
Will he ring the bell or grunt?
What was her last guy?
A plumber? Did he rattle like pipes?
You know I believe he did.
And now up the path
will strut a prize hog,
fat and hairy and curly tailed.
He'll boast how he wins
prizes at fairs,
not how many chops he'll make.
Another potential Mr Right
with floppy ears, four trotters.
Still, what with the price
of pork these days,
and the on-going surplus
of love in this family.
No way of knowing.
Maybe nothing to know.
And nothing to believe.
It will be or it won't.
Can't tell if it's
or sorrow over.
Can't say and never will.
Magna est Veritas et.
Truth will out.
Laws of the universe.
Can't avoid them.
But it will all seem like
an accident anyhow.
And, when it happens,
I'll be crawling from the wreckage
or crushed by metal.
Whole or broken,
resolute or resigned.
And my mouth...
maybe it will form the word
what my grandfather knew
as the town quarry
is now a couple of dozen
dumped at an abandoned railhead,
five feet square
where he swung
the sweaty pick-ax
is the last act of
some now defunct
its truck sunk up
to the axles in the muddy road,
its burden dumped
to help pull it clear
it's still about
the thriving businesses
of fifty years ago,
his walk to
the well of stone
with lunch pail
and whistled tune
but only as its ghosts,
as the way his stories
back and forth across
John Grey is an Australian born poet, playwright, and musician. His latest book is "What Else Is There" from Main Street Rag. He has been most recently featured in Cape Rock, Weber Studies, Writers Bloc and the Connecticut Review, as well as Agni, Worcester Review, South Carolina Review and The Pedestal.
Message from Paris
Your messages ride the ether
and arrive in little whispers
that catch me while I’m feeding
the cats or brushing my teeth.
You remind me that in Paris
ice rims the Seine and the fluster
of pigeons explains the lack
of tourists in the famous cafes.
Flu has laid Europe low,
but here in New Hampshire hardly
anyone coughs in public, the fear
of contaminants so extreme
we’ve abandoned all handshakes
and forbidden those airy kisses
the lean and chatty people prefer.
Everyone’s reading Hart Crane
to try to detect in his poems
the notice for his endless leap
into the cringing Atlantic.
When I say “everyone” I mean
only me, but I want to warn you
that as you fly home from Paris
you’ll spot the fatalistic sea
brimming in the corner of your eye.
You’ll telegraph something wry
to me and I’ll try to respond,
but the gray streets of Paris
will retain their power for weeks
or months, even if they dead-end
where mind and ocean meet without
the faintest sound to warp us
together, mutually alert.
Performing Old Beatles Songs
So you’ve run off to join a chorus
that performs old Beatles songs
at veterans’ clubs and nursing homes.
I’ve tracked you through olive drab
corridors, down asphalt driveways,
up antiseptic stairways, across
non-acoustic concert halls.
I’ve seen you brushing shoulders
with bald men grinning with lust
and women frizzy as sagebrush
but can’t get close enough to talk.
The months and years drizzle past
with gallons of cheap wine sloshing
in the gutters. The chorus travels
to Berlin, Moscow, Bucharest,
Hong Kong, Singapore, New Delhi,
my passport flapping in your wake.
I can’t catch up with you. The space
where the chorus has just performed
gapes like a recent surgery.
Strangers tell me how they admire
your clear quartz voice reclaiming
the tunes of their childhood. I press
my hands to my jowls and mock
a famous painting, my scream so loud
you shudder in your hotel room
and your latest lover slinks away
with his narrative incomplete.
One day I’ll confront you before
the performance. You’ll recognize
my pale yellow aura and shake
my hand like a dog’s paw. Too bad
my expression has so eroded
over twenty years you’ll refuse
to name me, refuse to acknowledge
the thousands of miles I’ve wasted
memorizing every Beatles song
so that when I engage you
I won’t violate the copyrights
you think will someday heal you.
Natural, Not Property Rights
To preserve a little piece of world
I declare the local landfill
a free and self-governing township.
I’ve drawn a line in the snow
that crosses the half-frozen river
and includes ten wooded acres
and the field where every summer
community gardens flourish
with vegetables left to rot
by genteel citizens too important
to harvest their useful crop.
Three men work at the landfill
bundling aluminum, paper, two
grades of plastic to recycle
for a modest profit. By day
my township has an economy.
At night, the employees gone,
I camp on a heap of asphalt
left by highway reconstruction,
and before a gushing wood-fire
compose a new town charter
to present to the state legislature.
I select myself the first
and only selectman. Also
chief of police, chairman of zoning.
The groans of lovers in parked cars,
engines idling, monoxide
dulling their nerves, offends me;
but if I could tax their gasps
and cries I could further empower
my modest little community.
So before new snow obscures
the boundary of this township
I’ll issue a proclamation
of natural, not property rights,
and declare the cold wind free
to browse wherever it pleases
and the river welcome to flood.
William Doreski teaches writing and literature at Keen State College in New Hampshire. His work has appeared in many journals and small press collections, most recently in Another Ice Age (AA Books 2007).