“IF ONLY” TIME
I live with this desire to revisit
a place far away, a time long before this one.
This longing, this need, can strike at any moment,
like now, in fading day, and in such chill the
river ice cracks like giant knuckles,
and snow-drifts overwhelm the landscape.
But moments from the past are tantalizingly
unfamiliar, like paintings half-completed,
full of false trails, sudden dead ends.
My mind can’t help itself.
There, in a glade of white-crusted trees,
a house of gleaming windows emerges,
and I stand on its stoop,
and want so much to step inside,
into the radiance and warm myself
by the fireplace that, no doubt, crackles within.
But I can’t enter.
This chair. These words. My body. Myself.
All of them are in the way.
AT THE COUNTY FAIR
The little girl in the bright pink frock
is curious about the woman nearby
with short-clipped hair,
dressed in shabby overalls.
“Who’s he?” she asks loudly.
Her embarrassed mother
drags her away from the crowd,
with a whispered “That’s Miss O’Brien.”
“Then why doesn’t she wear dresses?
And why does she smell like a pig.”
Luckily, her mother spies Mr. Langley
who always has candies for the children.
He teases the girl, gives her the choice
of what’s in his right hand or his left.
Scruffy clothes and rancid aroma
are no match for something sugary.
But Miss O’Brien
is a lesson in what it takes to survive,
like when she cut her father’s
body down from the ceiling,
how, with the farm’s now hers,
she has to squelch her way,
before daybreak, down a muddy track,
to the pen with buckets of sloshing slop,
and there are days she slits their throats,
hangs the corpses on hooks,
wipes the blood from her hands,
prays the price of pork will keep her solvent.
But, for now, Miss O’Brien is just a woman
in work clothes, stinking of the sty.
The child never does hear the story.
The story is merely there.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Sin Fronteras, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review.