By John Grey

The Briefest of Relationships

Traffic crawled,
head-lamps swam in exhaust cloud
for block after interminable block.

The road itself idled.
Six hundred cars followed suit.

The driver ahead of me
crawled to a stop.
My foot pressed down hard
on the much-reviled brake.

She leaned out of the window.
Featureless back of head
became lovely profile.
I was bored into adoring this woman.

we crept by an accident -
two accordion cars and at least one dead man.
Traffic began to free itself.
Little voices spoke,
"Be thankful it's not you."

I upped my speed,
zoomed past the woman.
Love can’t compare
with a clear road ahead.

A Cabin in Winter

In this cocoon,
a hearth fire
happily burns

Heat and light
go back into their shell,
succor us
with warm hands
and illuminated faces.

Was that a wolf howl?
An owl hoot?
The flapping of bat wings?

It’s not you
and it isn’t me either.

We huddle alone
but our ears have company.

The Book in the Trunk

Dusty and moldy, print type archaic, chapters eight and nine joined
           forever after in a stain. A pressed flower between leaves 108 and 109 to match 
the floral boundary
             of such plummy prose. And some scribble here and there, a skewered heart 
rescued by initials.
              a phrase underlined, the word "yes." The binding's split, glue's dried up, 
sections lean out of the whole and
        something's chewed the corners of the hard gray cover.

My irony has no use for yellowed wedding dresses, fading photographs,
        ceramic highlights of long ago travels. But the book is sacred, even some unreadable 
best-seller from the nineteen twenties,
          its author dead as stones. Eager fingers turned these pages, eyes parsed the 
sentences, mind and heart
          were intrinsically engaged. And romance and meaning left their calling 
cards, or moved right in,
           a written home within a home. Even paper dwindles to dust eventually but years 
are wary, take their time,
          in awe of human sentience. Writer, ink, paper, idea, imagination, pursuance, 
endurance, binding, hinge...
survival is all present and accounted

This New Beginning

Her body's in the kitchen but her mind
can't leave the room at the end of the hallway.
That's where she found her mother dead,

a wax figure under sheets, no eye squint,
no command, no waving of the hand, nothing
but this immense stillness with a chilly wrinkled face.

"Where do I go from here," she wonders.
Her father's passing had been a long time coming.
She learned to live with his corpse,

even as it smoked and ate and complained 
about the temperature. But her mother was here 
and then gone. Sure, she left the color of the curtains,

the arrangement of the furniture. But no radio plays 
anywhere in the house. No kettle boils ten times 
a day. No crumpled tissue emerges from the pocket

of a dressing gown. No pack of cards are spread
across the table in a singularly aggressive game of solitaire.
For twenty years or more, she's been the far end

of a complaint, an order, an insult, even a kiss sometimes 
to satisfy a transient motherly guilt. She feels helpless 
being one person. Without the enemy, there's

no need to retreat and no place either. She's in her kitchen. 
A new beginning, some well-wisher called it. 
But a new beginning ends it for her.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and International Poetry Review.

2 thoughts on “The Briefest of Relationships and Other Poems

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