Diamond emails twice a week

from a place called Glastonbury in England.

She’s organized a prayer circle

up by this ruined Abbey

and something called the Tor,

a desolate hill rising above the sea.

She says the place is positively pre-Christian

but her little group is more like post-Christian

with its assembly of gays, faith healers,

a Jamaican, even a wizard who calls on

the various forces within sun, water, sky,

to vanquish evil.

There’s even Holy Grail references in her missives.

how, in the first century AD,

Joseph of Arimathea, the rich man who buried Christ,

brought that vessel to mythic, misty Avalon,

whose presence her wizard friend

can perceive when sitting on the bog.

The Holy Grail – now wouldn’t that be a conversation piece

if it were sitting on my mantle.


Yes, Diamond was a lover once,

sometime between her allegiance

to Ganesh, the elephant god,

and a brief career as an actress in local theater.

But she’s always been one of those women

more sensual out of bed than in it.

Like when she writes of something as ordinary as “glass”

while infusing in it all kinds of Celtic myth,

otherworldly connotations far beyond

cutting a finger on a shard and dripping blood.

There’s mention of Rex Arturius and the forging of his sword.

And a conclusion wrest from nowhere

that she was Guinevere in a previous life.


How can my replies compete with that.

Joyce is over her pneumonia.

Gwen aced all her exams.

And yes, Craig did snare that assistant editor’s job.

And my uncle’s bookstore is holding on but barely.

But no one has become a Buddhist.

Nobody was chanted over

and felt a fire beginning to flicker

in a damaged body.

And then there’s the tale of the Wearyall Hill thorn tree,

Joseph of Arimathea’s staff that grew and blossomed 

on the spot where he planted it.

Puritans, a group to which Diamond never prescribed,

may have cut it down

but its offspring still sprout everywhere.

She promises to send me a branch,


I doubt if she’ll ever return

to her kind of normal life,

an apartment on the east side,

a job in a coffee shop,

a cat, black of course,

and plenty of roses.

But there’s always these emails,

from the heart of her latest fantastic belief.

She’s Cybele one week,

Uzza, the next,

and yet she always signs off “Diamond”.






He stumbled into her dark room.

He was drunk and loud

and smelling of alcohol and middle age.


At first, he was angry

because Kate had been out partying all night,

and her mother was staying at her sister's,

the one with cancer,

and there'd been nobody around to watch the kid.


He abused her loudly

and Kate just lay there,

doing nothing.


"It's his kid," she was thinking.

"I'm not his unpaid babysitter."


But she didn't defend herself,

merely burst into tears,

sobbing how sorry she was.


That calmed him down.

The truth couldn't.

But a girlish bid for sympathy worked a charm.

So even at his worst,

Kate had the control

in a way her mother couldn't even dream of.


They were the most hateful loving couple

Kate had ever been around.

And they were loud.

Her mother's guiding rule, frequently expressed

at full volume, was

"I don't take no shit from no one."


But, even in the dark,

breaking down girlishly,

Kate could turn his demons

back on himself,

make him do what he didn't want to do.


Powerful stuff, she reckoned.

Right there and then - mighty powerful stuff.






A cold voice announces engine trouble. But is it the airplane's engine or this family’s?

I’m stuck with a nose blower, a weeper...

and two dozen sidebar conversations.

The metal detector surely zapped their brains.

Likewise, the screens in all directions.

Whose idea was it that we should travel?

No wonder they refer to this place as a terminal.

Having heard the latest update, we flop down in our chairs again.

A stranger next to me is on his cell phone.

He’s requesting a cherry wood desk, and a bigger, fancier office.

A couple’s eyes are engaged in sex, sex and more sex.

Why not? Everyone's in bed together in this cavernous place,

victims of the estimated time of departure.

Many are hungry, munch down on flesh in a bun,

until each and every family member is awash with blood.

And all of us are of the one foul sigh in this eternal time-killing.

To think, I made sure that we were at the airport early just so we could be late.

An extra hour of nostril havoc, of uncontrollable tears.

It's all your fault. My fault. Really, the blame rests

with whoever’s on the other end of the stranger’s line.

Meanwhile, we’re crunched together, moaning and groaning,

red-faced, cussing modern transport, even the Wright Brothers.

The screen is back and trying to convince us that,

as long as the WiFi is free, then nothing matters.

The airline is convinced we need to see this.

Like we need to hear that our flight is delayed another hour.

It’s the law of the scheduling jungle, a voice intones.

I’ve learned to hate my fellow man in airports.

You’re always blowing your nose for one. You say it's the air-conditioning.

Then you weep, like we’re seeing each other off, not traveling together.

Together? We’re too much together here, that's it. Not home, where we each have

a favorite chair, a newspaper, a football game, to intervene. Our better selves know contentment but only the worst of us gets stuck in airports.

And what is that pilot staring at?

Doesn’t he know there’s more to life than sky?

A once pretty airline lady, now 65 and gray apologizes for the fiftieth time.

She thanks us for flying even though we’ve not yet flown.


© John Grey



Bio:  John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dalhousie Review, Thin Air and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Qwerty, Chronogram and failbetter.