by John Grey
Sure, Christine was speeding
on that dark, back-country road
and throw in the occasional swerve
like when a rabbit darted across the road
or, as she put it, a born-again Christian.
Careful, said Michelle.
Theres a dead body in the back.
So there we were, among the dead men,
and what could Christine do but plunge her foot
down on the accelerator, get us the hell out of there.
Yes, wed be drinking. And Christine had
been fighting off advances from some heavy-set guy.
We were young. A few beers had us staggering/
It was time for us to leave.
And Christine loved speed, especially
with a body in the back.
So off we went at a pace like you might see
down a NASCAR straightaway.
I crossed myself vigorously.
The body in the back began to rub its eyes, wake up.
And then Michelle said, theres a cop up
ahead and hes waving us over. We hid the beers.
And there we were, at the side of the road,
mired in the shadow of the law.
First thing out of his mouth was
how he knew all of our parents.
Dont remember much after that.
Maybe sitting on a bench at the station.
Time trailing off in all directions like dirt roads.
Head losing traction and grip. Or walking a plank.
Or scrambling on foot through a maze of carnival bumper cars.
Christine talked herself into trouble deeper and deeper.
Michelle burst into tears.
The body in the back merely belched and giggled.
Somebodys head leaned on mine.
Tragedy trembled on the edge of farce.
Cop says, You could have all been killed.
Is that what you want? Three nos and a maybe.
Then all was silent until the folks came.
Christine was grounded.
Michele was hanging with the wrong crowd.
I should have known better.
The body in the back went home alone.
A Warning In Paradise
Its his first lesson in muck.
Where there are pigs.
there will always be pig shit.
And cows make patties.
And horses must do something
with all that excess hay they devour.
Even the hens arent averse
to pooping all over the coop.
comes with a lot of yuk.
He learns that when he starts
to stumble about outside.
His fingers grub up
in one turn of a mothers head.
She steps in to keep them clean
when she can.
She worries that his mouth is in the firing line.
Its the same with fire.
The hot plates on the stove.
The bottles in the medicine cabinet.
His fathers truck goes without saying.
Or does it?
But its a warm summers day.
Why coop him up inside.
A light wind ruffles the grass, the scattered trees.
He reaches down to pick up something shiny.
Its a shard of glass that cuts his finger.
More delight that brings him harm.
Warning Valerie About Hitchhiking
and youre just as good as dead
is what they told her
no more romance
of the road
from who knows
how many weirdoes
two fifty pounds
of tattooed trucker
and a wife ten times
uglier than you
what's the odds
and the slimy guy
in the sports car
sure he looks like
you could take him easy enough
but what if he has a knife
for all your resourcefulness
you're no Jacqueline Kerouac
on the side of the road
just a whore
and asking for it
in the minds
of so many on the road
still if you've been nowhere
and you've got nothing
then theres no greater risk than that
You can never be too comfortable.
Even in the womb,
I heard anger from various sources,
the symptoms of a cold at close quarters
and some of the lamest love talk
since Hallmark was invented.
And then I was born
and the light wasnt natural
and never would be.
As my body grew to the height
of the pencil mark on the side of the door,
giants overwhelmed me with their very presence,
let alone their condescension.
School began with my ignorance
and drearily tried to replace it
with something far worse.
And work had me up on
the closest just doing my job
gets to criminal charges.
Romance stood to fears attention
then brought out my painful coyote howl.
It was followed up by love
which did for the human heart
what hammers do for nails.
Over the years,
marriage, less gaudy than simply dating,
resorted to mild suffering
with intermittent bouts of manna from in-laws.
Then having a family of my own
was like bringing more of myself into the world
for which I was heavily fined
and temporarily banned from the game.
Sickness, of course, stalked me like a shadow.
For a time there, I was its shadow.
And all thats left to me is death
and its petty problems.
Ive come to the conclusion
that life is no comfort zone.
Its a trial by temperament.
And who am I to judge?
The Odd One Out
It was Halloween
and none of the costumes
of the little ones
were the least bit scary.
There were more super heroes
than witches and goblins,
vampires and monsters.
Except one little boy
was painted creamy white
with charcoaled cheeks,
black around the eyes
and blue lips.
He could have been
but he looked more like
the corpse of a child.
He welcomed my treat.
I shuddered at his trick.
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