He's home from the Middle East.
Why shouldn't she kiss his lips
with both passion and trepidation?
It's like he's been resurrected.
And she's seen photographs
of dead women in the desert.
Did he try to save them
or were those his bullets in their breasts?
She could be smooching with
a killer of her kind.
It's those damn news reports.
Stare at corpses long enough
and mortality borders on eternal.
Men, women, he would say
they're all the same - their hate is unisex.
He slips into bed beside her.
More kisses. More rotting bodies.
And then a dream to suck
the certainty right out of her -
faces staring up at her from open graves,
mothers and daughters,
busted spokes on the great wheel
of bellies and birth.
And he's always said he wants children.
Is he sincere or is he just out
to make good on a debt?
And what is it like to witness
innocents burned alive?
A cancer eating away at your humanity
or an opportunity to reload?
She kisses him again, come morning,
on the cheek, not on the mouth.
"If you only knew how much
I missed you," he says.
But there's no room in her
for one more thing to know.
Daniel someone's son
(cue Morgan Freeman's voice)
photograph in mother's hand
like an oversized lollipop
(the folly of man)
from friendly fire no doubt
off to Iraq
for some goddamn peace and quiet
hot and dangerous
like menstrual rage
an off the cuff lobotomy
soldier at the door
says he's sorry to tell you
your son will not be getting married
retiring to Florida
(except for the last thing)
on its way a casket
a trail of tears
draped in the stars and stripes
no longer giving a shit
about the Third World
he'll be home again
but without all those daddy issues
Daniel childhood gone nothing but memories
the male equivalent
of an asymmetric boob job
A GRANDFATHER'S FINAL WORD ON THE CHURCH
The old man's words to me
were that the church could care less
about who's in need of the most prayers.
whose faith is strongest,
who leads the league in sacrifices.
It's all about benefactors,
money in the bank account,
anything to keep the jackals
away from the parish
and pay for the priest's fancy restaurant meals.
The poor arc suckered by religion, he added.
They give what they can't afford
and then, when they die,
they get a wooden cross
that rots within the year.
And the priest is almost
toppled by his own tongue
in a bid to hasten the ceremony.
But when some rich parishioner
craps out because of a faulty heart,
it's like a scene from
a Cecil B DeMille movie.
And the journey to the cemetery
is more of a parade
than a funeral
The poor even stop what they're doing
to watch it go by.
They'd never do that
if they were in the coffin.
© John Grey
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Harpur Palate and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.