I read the news. The planet swarms with

unwanted this or heaven-forbid that,

and evolutionÕs on the skids of course

while another creature goes extinct.

No place for my innocence.

Not when seas glow dusky pink at dawn.

For the sun canÕt help itself,

shines on murk and greenery,

slime and snowy heron alike,

despite the earth's ruptured ozone layer,

oil pipes that bubble and spit beneath Gulf waters,

asphalt that scars the globe.

And the breeze blows anyhow,

whistles its showtunes to the elder and red winterberries

as much as to beheaded hills, top soil disturbances,

for its purpose is ebullience.

Same as mine. So I ignore

tanker slicks and greasy seabirds,

waters stained by splotches of mercury,

rivers glowing radioactive, feral cats

devouring birdlife, introduced fish species

fouling streams, and shorelines glittering

like the jewelry of those who make a buck off this.

I dig for a more positive story.

Here, at the pond, the zip of dragonflies,

painted turtles warming on a log,

the croak of frogs from deep below sound.

Sure the news is coming for this place.

But itÕs not here yet. I am.






A woman walks a raccoon

on a leash

down Main Street.

Its four legs trot quickly

to keep up with her two.

The pair dart up the wide concrete steps

of St. Andrews.

ItÕs the annual blessing of the animals.

That black-masked creature

takes its place among various canines, felines,

even a bird in a cage.


ItÕs a warm dry morning

and the al fresco brunch diners

are amazed at the calm demeanor

of that wild creature,

how willingly it glides by

the smell of eggs and bacon

without turning a head.

The rectorÕs invocation

is broad enough to include all.

Religion, apparently,

takes novelty in its stride.

But the secular world

almost chokes on its bloody marys.


When I was young,

two guys walking down that same street

holding hands

would have had patrons and congregation

choking alike.

Same as a black man and white woman.

Now it takes a raccoon and companion

and, by the time of its return journey,

no one even gives it a second look.

No, the woman and racoon

are not prejudiceÕs last holdout.

TheyÕre merely something you donÕt see every day.

It just gets easier when you do.






But they donÕt.

Not on this dusty street.

TheyÕre all so skinny,

their skeletons show.

Even though thereÕs a pack of them,

theyÕre alone.

When youÕre that hungry, that thirsty,

thereÕs no such thing as company.


They beg.

They snarl.

They scour trash bushels

and lick the ground

for anything near-invisible

left behind.

TheyÕre survivors at least.

Or maybe they just

hide the dead ones.


My own freedomÕs

been like theirs mostly.

I might have looked

as if I could do anything,

go anywhere,

that I wanted.

But wherever I was

felt like the only place

I could ever be.


The dogs are like that.

Sure, they run this way and that.

They bark.

They howl.

They get out of my way

or they make me go around.

But thereÕs no choice involved.


IÕm no different than most.

There are times,

when I see those dogs

and wish I could run free like that.

But, as long as IÕm stuck in this life of mine,

I do already.






He died of an overdose –

where I am now amid his paintings,

logarithms in oil,

their filiations daring me yet.


His was another life in the city

unidentified but for his work,

this unrepentant studio,

his unmapped space, his island.


Something new is on the way –

condominiums most likely.

Evictions all around.

He wasnÕt strong enough for it.


Death saps all activity, private and public,

In its place, a chill, a blight.

Except here in the sinews of the canvas -

the otherness of its author yet awhile.


© John Grey


Bio:  John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review.  Latest books, "Leaves on Pages" and "Memory Outside the Head" are available through Amazon.