A Fevers of the Mind Poetry Showcase for John Grey

wooden house grayscale photo

photo by Chris Grafton (Unsplash)

Trailer Life

Eleven at night.
Four squeezed into the living room
watching a tiny black and white TV.

The fifth is outside,
cigarette in one hand,
beer in the other,
leaning against his pickup.
while he and a neighbor
go at it.

"If I see you near her ever again."

"You'll do what."

"You just think you're tough."

"Why don't you try me."

One gets up to adjust the antenna.
Another says, "Get me a beer while
you're up."
The third's half asleep.
The fourth is snoring.

The fifth stumbles in,
his tongue still cussing
behind him.

Door closed.
Everyone's accounted for.
Outside still hums with anger.
The inside sits on blocks.

Three Kids in an Old House

We found this abandoned house
in thick steamy summer woods,
its outer-walls unpainted and rotting,
the roof overgrown and sunk in parts,
every window shattered,
and the front door swelled out of its frame,
cocked to one side.
It was surely haunted, even at high noon,
for the dark air inside
seemed to have nothing to do
with what we had been breathing outside.

Tentative steps took us through the threshold
into a room containing nothing
but an old upright piano.
I ran my fingers down its keys.
For every ringing note,
there were five dull clunks.
The noise scattered cockroaches.

We summoned enough courage
between the three of us
to investigate the kitchen:
a rusty sink, a square of faded linoleum
where a stove had been,
and a small, empty refrigerator,
surrounded by water stains.

The bedroom was a cave of dust and spiders
and a shed snakeskin,
shaped long and slithery enough for imaginations
to shudder at the withering gaze of absent eyes.

We'd seen enough.
That this was once a family home
never entered our minds.
We figured no one ever lives
in such fearful circumstances.
A naive assumption on our part.

The Young Arsonist

He wanted to set the school aflame
but all he could achieve was 
to set fire to the contents 
of a paper recycling bin.

He felt like a ping-pong ball
being battered back and forth
by two different civilization.
Fire, to his way of thinking,

was a citizen of the world.
His parents called him a problem child.
Their parents reckoned him abnormal.
The cops never mentioned rootlessness,

just a warning for the future.
The flames, the heat,
gave little back to him.
The brief happiness seemed futile.

His father lectured him on being
proud of his ancestry, 
added that they only moved 
to this country 

because he couldn’t make 
a living back home.
The boy had been proud of the fire
but his father was right.

It would never be an ongoing concern.
He still wanted to set the school aflame
but he continued to attend classes.
And learning poured water on everything. 

Many Webs on the Trail

Past the lines of the old stone walls,
between two long standing oaks,
the flutter of nerves stops just short of the flutter of web,
strong in the wind, a spider 
holds captured prey as much with its eyes
as any gossamer.

I brush the gnats from my face
but that’s not what changes the mood to savagery,
why it’s suddenly colder, silent,
from the dark core of my brain to my nervous fingers,
my stuttering feet on the trail down to the marsh.
And what of the pathless thicket?
I’m terrified of what might be lurking there.
Ticks, more spiders, snakes…
I’d be such an easy mark.  
No, nature’s not something to rush.
And these filaments across my path
can’t be torn to shreds with the wave of a hand,

The air is chilled. 
The sky is fishing for a way in
between the treetops.
Everything cast shadows.
Not just the pines, the maples.
But the maze of death that flutters before me.

I somehow sneak my way around this web
only to be confronted by more of the same farther along.
For all I know, this could just be one giant construction
spread throughout the Autumn woods.
Half-erased lives cling to its sticky filigree,
maneuvering for a position. for a freedom
that is no longer possible.
It’s their dying that makes the living visible,
their struggle spun across the path ahead
that pulls me back to where my beating heart is waiting.

I crunch on twigs.
The sound is like the snap of carapace.
Blue-jays screech at my presence.
Don’t they know that I’m the good guy here.

Regarding the Afterlife

Last night, in a close gathering of folks
at my apartment, a writer friend
of mine claimed to have all the facts
regarding the afterlife.
"The soul catches the first plane
out of New York for Tibet," he said.
"But the soul's not traveling
to the high country
to make nice with the Dalai Lama.
Being so bodiless,
it's finally able to cash in on
that latent love of winter sports.
Now it can ski down Everest,
skate across the icy plateau."
'"Is there a God," someone asks.
"No," he replies, "only a slalom course
at over twenty eight thousand feet
where the thinness of the air
doesn't bother man's essence in the slightest."
I ask him what such an eventuality
does for all this "meaning of life" talk.
His response was that "the meaning of life
is bobsledding from the top of the world
down to its very pits
only without a bobsled."
"But what about religion?" somebody asked.
"Religion is a bobsled," he replied.

Death Watch

Emma is certain she will die today.
The mirror reveals a woman almost dead anyhow.
She figures maybe, with the right undertaker,
her face will look more lovely, more serene,
in the coffin than in reflection,

She examines her belly - the perfect target for a knife.
Her mouth opens wide - now there's a well
for dropping many of the pills in the bottle on the table beside her bed.
And look at those white wrists -
the optimum hunting ground for a ra/.or and a steam bath.

Self-destruction, she figures, is the perfect antidote
to what she's seeing in that mirror.
Now which are the mushrooms that dabble in death?
And where's the most likely place in her garden
for a rattlesnake to be coiled and ready to strike?

She’s weary of hearing it from people.
The falsity of so-called lovers cuts
but it doesn't go deep enough.
And her family are no use:
she doesn't measure up
and yet they still refuse to bring her all the way down.

Let them find her lying in her own blood.
Or contorted like an Indian rubber man
with a face a standard shade of blue.

But Emma is also certain that
her certainties are thin as skin.
She'll get through the day, the night,
and the next and the next.
Her death watch requires a lot of patience.
A life is a long, long time.

Bio: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.


By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1


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