by John Grey
When She Hung The Painting
It was just a landscape painting
and the wall was bare without it.
But looking at the thing
was like staring in a mirror.
Am I too far to the right?
Too far to the left?
Am I at an angle?
And secured enough?
Whenever a visitor
gave the artwork the once over,
they were really
making a judgement on her.
It was just a landscape painting
but portraits often are.
We need more afternoon dreams
and maybe cops instead of koi
in our ponds.
And rather than the usual relatives,
we should invite symbolists
to our wedding.
Houses are too drab,
too much a product
of what the neighbors think.
So let's install willow fronds
in lieu of carpets,
honeysuckle for drapes
and, where the chandelier used to hang,
a hive of wild honey-dripping bees.
We should have gargoyles for friends,
speak French badly,
walk on the most rotten planks
and set our dinner table
for the stars in the Serpent Constellation.
There is not enough...
and too much...
our grandmothers need to see us
in our board-shorts
with our bare chests painted
green and yellow.
We are individuals
in a world that seeks to straitjacket us.
So throw out your guide-books,
set fire to your instincts
and take your orders from me.
Another Bad Hair Day
The planet's howling.
It's busting up into water, fire, air and dirt.
What in the name of Francois Villon
is going on here?
I am immersed in the small things
while, all the while,
the sun's imploding
some gamma ray is shrieking,
out with him!
I'm trying to get through to
a woman who enjoys
listening to the tinkle
of tiny bells on her bracelet,
or sipping tea, or darning socks,
and the apocalypse is splashing
hell all over us
like a giant Jackson Pollock
flicking his paint on canvas.
The self is unimportant.
The stroke of twelve has fallen.
Doesn't matter whether one
is measly flesh or cast in bronze.
Hand on the telephone, I'm fried.
Peeking out numbers, I'm ashes.
Confessing my feelings,
the boiling ocean sweeps me away.
Awaiting your reply,
I'm blown out into space.
Hearing your answer,
I'm nothing but an abstract poem
scribbled across the edges of the universe.
What do your precious cheekbones mean now
that a mountain has been uprooted?
What can your day possibly look like,
if continents are squashed like gloves?
Meet you at twelve,
but, I already told you,
twelve has been and gone,
has razed and raped and...
and you wonder,
but has it reconciled?
Okay, so I'll meet you at twelve.
But it's not like St John the Divine
didn't warn you.
A Child Born To Ageing Parents
You arrive at the end of such a long time.
The seed was planted unbeknownst to birth.
It came to pass in ignorant parents,
ripened and grew, chose being as its model.
You took something from bent bone, unwelcome flesh,
devoured what age had left behind, made the old older.
You hadn't the heart to leave a heart untouched.
You suckled on that frail thing then stole most of its beats.
Your hair had barely waved in breeze and they were
both dead and buried in these photographs.
It's as if, but for you, life did not exist. An aunt
raised you. Her love was twenty years of charity.
You blossomed even without the roots.
Wherever you flower, soil seems to find you.
There is a whole to which you willing aspire.
But there is a void in you - the death of others.
Las Vegas Encounter
Do you want to crawl into me.
So then where would I be?
In a corner of a room, huddling for sleep?
Drowning in some swimming hole?
She figured herself as the center of the world
and I couldn't be happier.
You're just afraid of abundance, that's all,
Yes, her beauty did pique my ear -
timeless by day, neon by night.
And the face I saw in the mirror
had nothing better to do.
But my problem was there just
wasn't enough loneliness
in those eyes of mine.
Yes, she was the brightest of attractions
and blessed she stood at the bar,
in the glow of the Budweiser sign,
Her tongue kept offering its comforts.
She even suggested, hey,
this could be special.
The drinks I was downing
certainly weren't on the side of the truth.
But I was comfortable with what I had,
figured it could work for as long
as my allotted time on Earth.
She didn't get it,
reckoned I was merely in the scheme of things,
and then cut me with double-edged dialogue -
if not for her, me?
She kept posing possibilities, all of which
incorporated her body.
And she was real shape-shifter -
backing away one moment,
nudging against me the next.
I admit I might have looked like a yes
from time to time
but no was my final answer.
She ended it by misquoting the Stones -
"You can't always have what you want."
But you can if you've already got it.
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