It’s what I’ve been waiting for.
A handful of words
for the rest of this show to hide beyond.
A sound-bite. A summary.
Anything rather than having to
gather up the particulars,
jam them together somehow,
try to make sense of what I have.
The details would be too disparate.
that’s the problem.
Love and the office.
A mother and a baseball game.
A pain in the head
and the first bicycle I ever rode.
Imagine, a kiss and a computer
trying to occupy the same space.
Or a good night’s sleep and a cucumber.
Without such an anchor,
the years would drift away.
No more pet dog and lousy pay check.
No cemetery and strip show.
No published poem and pot of beans.
I’d be dealing with a nothingness
and that’s not what I’m looking for
in a title.
“My Life Until Now”
Or “Despite Everything,
I’m Still Here.”
and I’d never remember it.
Anything more specific
and I wouldn’t know it was me.
Through a hallway so narrow
you can touch both sides without a stretch,
to a black-walled room, a coffee bar,
and there, on a dim-lit makeshift stage,
everyone’s favorite recovered junky.
Almost twenty years since
he appeared anywhere in the city,
same old open-necked shirt,
same old ragged jeans,
same old ginger-colored hair
though with some gray flecked here and there.
same old spit whistling through the air.
all for the benefit of an audience
of punks and old-wave bohos.
each as bitter as he used to be.
But Andy had better luck,
he came out the other side of addiction,
alive with ass-kicking poems,
with eyes like bowls
that once held fish,
skin like cheap varnish,
and a voice now raspy whispers,
but stories only he was capable of having lived,
of having tongue enough to tell them.
Sure, he’s a long way in time and distance
from loved ones,
but he no longer eats
in flyblown restaurants,
or types on a borrowed laptop.
This stooped, battered man
with the long gray locks,
reveals himself to be, in close-up,
a survivor giving his past
the loving finger.
As his hand shuffles papers,
he confesses he’s lived plenty,
and near-died almost as often,
been jailed, put in the stocks,
gone unshaven for years,
was not for the squeamish, the unworldly,
his brain like dew on ice-cracked sidewalks,
or a dance of flies on a table of crumbs.
From late night open mic,
a little drunk,
to done-it-all cunning wordsmith,
from poems grown moldy in a drawer
to shared with whoever wants to listen,
the journey’s been postponed from time to time,
but battles on
in a room as small as a one car garage,
a dilapidated Christ
with notebook as camera
one poem per page:
old poem, lost poem, shabby poem, crooked poem,
numbered by year, by heartbreak, by fatality.
open veins, open drains,
opening eyes wide as chest wounds
full of shiny crimson blood.
By John Grey
- John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Fall/Lines, Euphony and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Cape Rock, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.