THE THREAT OF THE NEWS
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.
RACCOON ON A LEASH
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.
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
would have had patrons and congregation
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.
DOGS RUNNING FREE
But they donÕt.
Not on this dusty street.
TheyÕre all so skinny,
their skeletons show.
Even though thereÕs a pack of them,
When youÕre that hungry, that thirsty,
thereÕs no such thing as company.
They scour trash bushels
and lick the ground
for anything near-invisible
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,
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 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.