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by John Grey



A Night Watching Nature Programs


Round eyes,

small pert nose,

fluttery brown fur,

gentle demeanor,

prim gait,

the antelope

is a play

for our sympathy.




fierce gaze,

salivating incisors,


muscled chest,

the lioness

is a play

for our awe.


Once in a

lifetime deal,

prices slashed

on all vehicles,

all must go

to make way

for new inventory…

and then there’s

the advertisers.




a line, (a short blue one)



Those Door-To-Door People


Who remembers the Fuller Brush girl?

Or the Avon Lady?

And what about the vacuum cleaner salesman

or the kid selling magazine subscriptions

to pay for his college education?


Salesman still come door to door

but not with perfumes in a suitcase.

Instead, it’s Jehovah Witnesses

trying to sell me God.

And politicians, of course.

And God knows, they're for sale.


Those were the days.

The world of commerce

put on its best walking shoes

and did the neighborhoods.


Now it's just religion and politics

that bother.

And when they come calling,

I pretend I’m not home.


Now if they only preached

that old Fuller Brush religion.

Or they ran on a platform

of Avon, Hoover and “Life.”




a line, (a short blue one)



The Couple Measure Success                                                 Page One


My life begins with a couple

driving through a new estate,

going from house to house,

admiring the two-car garages, neat lawns,

in-ground pools out back,

the golf course in the distance,

the rippled sheen of a lake

within walking distance of all.

Of course, they can’t afford what they see.

So my life starts out with disappointment.

And maybe something like,

“This isn’t what we bargained for.”


And yet, this impoverished couple

tell themselves, “All is not lost,

maybe the kid will grow up

to be a doctor or lawyer

and will shower us with all

the treasures, the pleasures, we never had.”

So my life steadies itself

through a series of apartments,

hand-me down cribs,

occasional Chinese takeout meals,

cheap vacations by the shore.

And even a home, nothing fancy,

but that new estate is old by this,

in reality and in wishful thoughts.


At some point, the couple must realize that

this boy they’ve nurtured,

put their faith in, is smart enough

but not engaged in their dreams.

He doesn’t take the cat’s temperature.

He scribbles on paper instead.

And the couple move in circles

where children go to medical school

or study the law or, at least,

put their mechanic skills to good use

and open their own garage.

These kids don’t stick their head in a book

unless it ends in dollar signs.

And wild Basil is not a flower to them

but just some crazy guy they work with.




a line, (a short blue one)



The Couple Measure Success                                                 Page Two


The couple drift steadily enough

into middle age,

then grow gray in hair and body and outlook.

My life is determinedly mine by this.

I’m married with a place of my own,

a job that pays

and a vocation that doesn’t.

They do go on the long trip

that they’ve always dreamed of

but, halfway through,

the tug of home is too great,

and they head back

to where their roots are waiting.


The couple’s lives fade eventually.

while mine’s still in progress.

At their late date, they’ve finally

accepted the fact that my life

is the one they want for me.

Not the life of mine they want for themselves.

But, at the end, that’s a start.




a line, (a short blue one)



The Truth Please


I gave up on ambiguity.

I wanted black or white,

yes or no.

Instead she handed out “maybe”’s

like Reese’s Pieces on Halloween.


I needed some time with clarity.

A day, an hour even,

when I knew where people

were coming from.

But she wouldn’t give me a minute.

Not even a moment.


I longed for words

and facial expressions

to align,

for actions to coincide with promises

but her uncertainty

joined hands with vagueness,

threw in some doubt,

and then topped it off with,



Had I known where I stood

I wouldn’t have been standing there.




a line, (a short blue one)



A Healthy Lie


He told the doctor he had quit cigarettes

for good this time,

even though he had puffed on one

that very morning.

He wanted to be superior in the

physician's eyes.

And he could do it with an untruth,

without having to change anything.


Gravity is overrated.

Other pulls are greater.

To be seen to be making improvements

puts magnetism in the shade.

He doesn't want to die

but he doesn't want to give up pleasure either.

If the doc keys into his laptop,

"gave up smoking"

then it has to be partly true at least.

It has to help.

And then there's the story he tells his wife.

It grabs him by the tongue.

points him in the direction of.

"He says I'm as healthy as a guy

half my age."

Then he goes out back for another cancer stick.

His next appointment isn't for six months.

A lot can be said to happen in that time.



a line, (a blue one)


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