The woman said, yes she would go to the Cape with him -

Cape Cod, Cape Ann, Cape Elizabeth, take his pick.

There'd be ocean no matter what option they chose.

And beaches for catching rays though water too cold for swimming.

For it wasn't about capes anyhow, those jutting pieces of land

mere masks for the real plan he had in mind for her,

namely sex. Not taffy but sex. Not whale watches but sex.

Not even restaurants where fresh lobster arrived with bib

and strange prying open and cutting implements

that look like they came direct from an operating theater.

She knew this. He knew this. There'd be a motel or

a cabin or maybe a second floor room of a chain hotel,

even a bed and breakfast where the proprietor would

give her a suspicious look when she signed her last name same as his.

The woman said, in effect, you name the cape and I will be there

with my clothes tossed on the floor and my legs spread wide.

It wouldn't matter if she never saw a sea-shell, a branch of

antler-shaped kelp, a sandpiper darting in and out of foam.

If he wanted, they could even get a place in town and call it a cape.

She wanted to be with him so badly. He couldn't wait to

get his hands on her. But he had this vision of a seacoast

where he was proud headland and she a vibrant wash of bay.

Until sex came along, geography was his favorite subject

Yes, he went with the passion but kept the natural features.






They're officious no doubt.

Their scarlet epaulets give them rank

and they mean to make the most of it.

Wings tilted back, head forward

like a sergeant barking orders,

they vilify intruders

from the safety of their high branch perch.


Despite their satin beauty,

those are threats.

And for all their clerical black,

no doubt in that heckling trill,

there's an avian cuss or two.


Day after day, in their scrub realm,

the male circles his territory.,

or grips a waving reed;

defies his own weight

as he sways back and forth,

charting his thick green demesne,

while the female, more reticent,

less public, shops for nest sites

in the underbrush.


They're the royalty of thicket,

of stunted growth, of barren,

of prickly bristlecone

and boulders fizzed with moss.


There's one on the feeder now,

haughty and kingly,

waving away the other birds

so it can stand alone.

It's as close as birdlife ever comes

to being the author of this piece.






It's just the two of us in her kitchen, 

sipping coffee, ignoring the sad limp cake slices

that seem to know they never will be eaten.


She looks up from time to time,

as if to penetrate the ceiling,

to get at the room where she spent ten years

nursing a dying father.


It's over now

but herconversation doesn't think so.

There's nothing about what she

will now do with her life,

merely a timeline of doctors, hospitals,

with interruptions for those moments with her mother

whose fragile drifting speech

fell sadly short of naming names,

whose wrinkled eyes proved unsuited

to identifying faces.


Rain pelts the roof,

its drumbeats fill the pauses

in our conversation

but can't disturb the topic

so rooted in her every day–

the father of her eyes, her mouth,

even the color of her hair–

her words, his ultimate passing,

are still in this together.


I feel like an escort for her pain,

holding its delicate hand

in hopes to warm, comfort.

Or I grip the merest of its leashes

as it walks out on thin ice.


But what if the hand breaks?

What if the ice cracks?

The rain stops.  . .

But my drumming continues.


John Grey


Bio:  John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.