By John Grey

Where the Water Falls

It cascades
silver and foam
from craggy heights
down the rutted black face
of sheer cliff.

On contact with the river,
in endless hiss,
it replaces itself
with more of itself.

It cannot
tie a shoelace,
row a boat
or boil a kettle.

It merely does
what I have come.

In Bordeaux

Waiters with slick black hair waltz by,
wine glasses brimming on trays,
sure of foot, their own and each other’s.

And below me, the valley spreads,
striated with trellises of vines,
all heavy with green and purple clusters.

Sun high up in the sky’s saddle,
the hills are fully seen,
from winery to winery,
even a middle-ages monastery
where the brothers stamp grapes underfoot.

This world knows no change,
even the night
is just the daylight,
sequestered in darkness
for safekeeping.

My goblet arrives,
a chardonnay as clear
as a Pyrenees lake.

Workers rest on the slopes for lunch.
A few white-capped vintners,
adorned in red-stained aprons.
Many a picker
stretching the bend in their back.

The wine’s story is before me,
like the pages of a book,
from the fruit of the first chapter,
to the last,
where a steady hand pours from a bottle.
I can taste it and see it
in the very same sip.
My stomach even gets to be the epilog.

The Ups and Downs of the White Mountains

The granite’s tougher than whole armies,
even this barren foot or so of cliff,
the last before I break bread with the summit.

Everything’s immense.
And old. And dead.
My heart no longer senses
the click-track of the seasons.
Climate may be cycling summer into fall,
but here, if time moves,
it’s strictly up and down,
not onward.

I reach the top.
A hawk roams at my eye-level.
He plummets for prey
deep into the valley below.
He’ll take his kill back to his nest.
There’s is no other direction.


It’s like having the sun
right here in my backyard.
And not just the one.
But five or six.
But my suns get so heavy
for their stalks,
they droop,
face downward.
              Like the real sun does.
              On its invisible stalk.

Alone and Company

So what to make of these strangers
who pass me by,
sometimes smile, mostly don't.
What are they to me?
What am I to them?
And how many times
need I repeat the questions
before they vanish
from my life forever.
I have to get used to this.
There are more people
who don't know me
than those who do.
And, when I travel,
everyone's a stranger.
Even the hotel clerk,
the tourist guide,
the taxi driver.
They're there to help.
But they're just not there to know.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and the MacGuffin.

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