A gift
from night chill,
from the dry wind grace,
from the incomparable
red-rimmed morning sunlight
in a slow spread everywhere…
deep the earth becomes,
endless mystic fervor;
feel the freshened wind
through oak’s forked bough,
fragrance of honey
from each old hollow.

Shadows spread far,
strike the nostrils
in a sudden flash;
swallows gather,
sing then sit,
trill the forest chaste
from roused pine-needles
to its far depths,
unseen tree-trunks,
wet woods,
cut. from flicker beak
that gleam in wing-footed dew,
unobserved, unapparent,
but within this.

Cranes arrive at the lake.
It’s winter.
These slick birds beat back the wind
with folded feathers.

Their elegance
is up for useful things:
digging in the mud,
scouring the waters.

Bent like question marks,
they nod heads together and gossip:
migration tales,
the wisdom of the egg.

A gull offers a shrieking oratory.
The cranes dip and sip,
find peace with their thirst and hunger.

One stands on a solitary leg,
holds ground.
But the still
is never perfectly still.
Its head retreats
from a work of art
into its own invention.
Knees lock.
Neck stiffens
Beak awaits instructions
from the eyes.

Another dances,
splashes in the icy water.
Rituals come easy to its body type.
A couple fly up to the trees,
prepare their nightly roost.

Cranes don’t dispute their right to be here.
They don’t partition a place in their hearts for nature
not worry if this or that one
is the penultimate bird.
Cranes are not me.
They would never watch cranes.


It is the nature of the whale
to be observed briefly.
a momentary humpback,
fluke piercing the sea
like arrow fletching.

It is the mammal’s call
to leave us behind,
heaving on our decks,
gripping to the railing
as the ocean bounces boats
like buoys.

Cetacea on one side,
three hours out from port on the other –
we gather at the grand banks,
a pantomime of fish
and sightings.

“To the portside!” yells the captain.
“No, the starboard!”
Some cameras snap a mere glimpse.
Others, a foamy blankness.
Once more, the. whale does a better job
.of knowing where it is.


Look I know you’re busy —
what with, your work and your writing
and those demands on your time
to deliver this commencement speech
and appear at that charity event –
but I was wondering if…
you’re in the newspaper all the time
and on television sometimes
and you give this impression
of being always out of breath,
as if you’re rushed everywhere,
the prisoner of a calendar so tight
there’s barely room for bathroom trips
but you know…
well maybe you don’t
because it seems as if your fame is more selfish
than any of us can possibly imagine
and it seems as if no popular celebrity
can pass through town
with paying homage to you
expecting, of course,
that you’ll offer tribute in return
but if only you could…
well look at me,
my mother doesn’t recognize me,
the postman delivers my mail to the
house next door,
I haven’t one solitary fan
except for the overhead one
that doesn’t work anyhow
and my telephone is held in reserve
for telemarketers and wrong numbers
but you, but you…
I expect there are days
when you’d give anything
to swap your life for mine —
just for the solitude, the loneliness,
the complete lack of recognition —
well I can dream can’t I…
admit it, I’ve got you there.
There’ve been such women,
lovely, all of them,
concealed in poems,
hidden behind pseudonyms in stories,
given new identities
the moment they stepped on the stage
in plays –
I had to keep them somewhere
and I’m not a one for photographs.
So I know them.
I write them down.
Memory has an ally in the pen.



John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming
in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s