RETURNING SOLDIER

 

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.

 

 

ONE SOLDIER

 

Daniel             someone's son

(cue Morgan Freeman's voice)

photograph in mother's hand

like an oversized lollipop

in uniform

(the folly of man)

and smiling

from friendly fire no doubt

 

off to Iraq

for some goddamn peace and quiet

hot and dangerous

like menstrual rage

stray bullet

an off the cuff lobotomy

 

soldier at the door

helplessly giggling

says he's sorry to tell you

your son will not be getting married

having kids

accumulating stuff

retiring to Florida

and dying

(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.