THE WOMAN SUN-BATHING
Asleep, she is only her body.
She could be a frog on a log
and not a woman on the sand.
But she would be the one frog
as seen by the naturalist
who finds amphibians more
delectable, more aesthetically
fulfilling, than human flesh and bone.
I could be just such an expert
in my field,
coming across a lily pond
rather than a sun-fueled beach.
I would kneel the same
as I do here.
I'd train my eyes
It would be my ten thousandth frog
but I'd still be taken
by the satin finish of its green skin,
the seductive flap of flipper,
the constant murmur
of that coiled predator tongue.
I would feel like it was
the best specimen I had ever sighted,
even as it does nothing
but rest and take the sun.
Like a woman more lithe, more lovely
than all the women
I have loved and lived with,
it would be a frog superior to
anything pinned up
on a dissecting table,
spliced and diced
to understand its parts, its functioning.
Suddenly, she gets up to leave.
She doesn't plop down into
the depths of her pond
but smiles warmly at me
as she gathers up her belongings.
No naturalist can survive that moment.
Fuel tank, spring, alternator. Man in blue
in driver's cab. Who screwed him into place?
Conductor clueless on the platform, waving flags.
Water tank. Air compressor. Ventilating fan.
And old men are talking sports not hand
brake, end ladder, sill step. What about them
Cardinals? Not will we make Albuquerque
by nightfall. Coupler knuckle. Safety rail.
Sandbox. The drivers are as dumb as
go-karts. The locomotive roars into
being anyhow. It knows the routine. Could
run this train without a human being anywhere
near the horn, the dynamic brake, the battery.
It could even chat to every fishplate bolt,
dating nail, tie-plate about old smashes,
crashes where five hundred people died.
The worst that can happen doesn't phase it. It's
been derailed. It killed a drunkard wobbling
across the tracks. And what about that head-on
collision, point wire, switch rod, closure rail.
A smashed cow-catcher. A buckled car or two.
But you should have seen the other guy.
The express out of Kansas City. And
what's this. Highway crossing. Crossback sign.
Visor. Junction box. People do insist on driving
places. And the talk is women would you
believe. And me with all my couplers. No
offense you old rail-dogs but I've had
box cars, tank cars, containers, flats, gondolas,
hopper cars and even a caboose or two. You
know the caboose. That's where the conductor
sleeps one off. Mile after mile, it's nothing to
do with people. Train shows the way. Distances
obey implicitly. Let's slow a little, give that
farm boy some kind of show. Blow a whistle.
Pretend to puff some smoke though we're all diesel.
There's no end to what machinery can do.
Hydraulic cylinder. Exhaust stack. Tread bar.
I hope your tractor feeds you well.
© John Grey
Bio: John has recently been published recently in Agni, Worcester Review, South Carolina Review and The Pedestal, with work upcoming in Poetry East and REAL.