Tuesday, April 24, 2012

AN AMERICAN POEM



It snowed overnight

and here come the Klu Klux Klan

all toting volunteer shovels.

"We'd be glad to dig you out

as long as you're a white man."

they tell me. "Or not Jewish. Or Catholic."

I'm none of these, I swear,

and the Grand Imperial Wizard

forswears his divine mission

for an hour or two

of slapping around in mounds

the color of his robes.



It snowed overnight

and my dreams volunteer

to help clear out the driveway.

The one where I ride off

on the back of a goat

is already chiseling away

at the hard, crusty, icy, stuff.

And that's me, sitting for

the big exam in my underwear,

taking a little time out

to brush of the car,

uncover the front steps.

And would you believe,

the monster in the closet

is knocking those icicle daggers

from the eaves.



It snowed overnight

and snake-dancers arrive

all the way from Kentucky

to push that blower around.

Likewise a Nuba man

painted in ashes.

And the earth spirit

of the Ahsanti tribe

who hasn't even seen

a flake of snow

in his hundred lifetimes.

I can always count on Asmodeus,

the demon of lust



but who'd have thought

an astral body would have

all the right equipment

and Romulus and Remus,

teat suckers from way back,

would offer to sweep my path.



It snowed overnight

and St Uncumber,

everyone's favorite virgin,

is assuring me,

"We'll have you out of here in no time."

And the God Uranus

dropped down from the stars,

says he'll melt some of the stuff

if that is okay with me.

Even Dickens rolls his sleeves up

and Varney the Vampire

risks a killer sun and heat

of 21 degrees.



It sure is good to know,

when the work needs to be done,

I'm not alone in this world.

Side by side, even with the enemy,

the mystery, the exotic and the freaks...

if I can't get my car out

then who knows what the future holds

for any of them.

The Grand Wizard

doesn't even seem to mind

when the wind blows clear

that Nuba man's white ashes.

It's enough to make a grown man cry.

And maybe that crying grown man

will shovel me out next time.



DIVORCED COUPLE SELL OUT



You have not only purchased the house

but also the garden. Yes, it looks so

frail now. It's the season. It's the sentiment

our home exuded knowing it was on

the market. But don't worry. In decay, there

is color. In wither, a running commentary

on new life.



So work at it, like we did fifteen years ago.

Few will see your bed sheets after all

but many a thousand will spy your flush

geraniums and make their judgments.

Sometimes, flowers judge us. Like these,

crying out for fertilizer, for water from

that green hose that just lies there like

a dead snake.



You're new to this business I can see.

New couple. New house. Believe me,

the coming days, you won't stand for

anything that's dying. You'll take to

spades, to rakes, and churn your

precious miracles. The garden will prosper,

I guarantee. New blooms for old.

It's a sale.



TO AMOS, MARRIED TO THAT SIXTIES' REVOLUTIONARY



To think, the woman once

railed against Castro,

no better than Batista,

and now he's old, his beard

is white, and he can't even

get those good Cuban cigars any more.



He probably has Alzheimer's, she says,

forgets there ever was a revolution.

The people, she sneers,

they've been screwed by everyone

from emperors to presidents.

And they even screw themselves, I add,

though she doesn't hear.



Time is such a grim watch-dog.

It once felt like Now.

These days, it's retired and playing golf,

figures it can shoot its age,

never does.



And to think she kept the love-letters.

What are the words to her?

More Castros?

Except of course, their betrayal happened

over years.

And perhaps, she encouraged that treason.

Two people, both Cuba, both Castro.

Only she has no beard thank God.



And what's on at the Multiplex?

A movie about Che. Please, don't

get her started. That's how things end.



AVERAGE JOE



It’s a crazy death, a man underneath his car, in his own driveway,

doesn’t realize the brake is off and that vehicle rolls over him,

crushes his legs, his chest.

No wait, that’s not it, the scene is his driveway sure,

but he backs up, smacks into his five year old daughter

who’s playing with her dolls, squashes her like a gnat

against the garage door, cracks open the head of every doll.

But no, that’s just the worst that could happen,

not what did happen.

He made it to the street safely, and his family were

all safe and snug indoors.

But not the boy on the bicycle, a neighbor’s son,

he didn’t miss when that kid pulled out of the side street,

smacked him six feet in the air, bounced him off the car roof,

sent him sprawling bloody and dead, face down in asphalt.

But that wasn’t how it happened.

Nor did the truck cross over the center line, smash into him on.

And he didn’t slip on ice, crash through the guard rail.

Nor did he pull up suddenly, get concertinaed by the traffic behind.

It’s a crazy life, all of the things that could happen that don’t,

to him, to loved ones, to strangers, but they’re there in other lives,

the papers are full of them, deaths and disasters, there on every page.

He’s at his desk, car safely in the office garage, sipping coffee,

flipping through the newspaper before work begins.

On page three, ten dead in a mine cave-in. On page seven, a man struck by lightning.

He wonders where do they get these people.



CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS

Much talk,

garbled, gulped down with

Swedish meatballs over pasta,

odd friendships

yapping around a table.



Dave speaks and eats,

hard, staccato, like

pounding a ball in his glove,

Anna whispers Polish joke to Carl,

Lin is unhappy for all who did not make it here



It’s Jenna’s house,

photographs hang ghost faces,

ancestors years and oceans away,

yearning to be near

in sweat-shirts, jeans, and close cut hair.



No Kazlowskis’ here, not a Chin,

nary a Martini or a Schmidt,

intermarried, anglicized,

and all together, chatting the concerns

of romance, not races.



Slurp, laugh and on to the next

is the way their history happens now,

every look not catalogued,

every word not written down,

yet here they are, none of them.

John Grey