John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.


Trigger Warning

Between sunrise and sanity,
I’m breathing the best air that suits my lungs,
at an outside table of some burrito palace,
nibbling on a leaf of salad rocket,
while tourists click and clack right by me,
sniffing their way through vegetable stands,
looking for deals on rugs and blankets.

How about some meatier subjects? Life? Death?

No, shoppers never vary.

Before they even know they’re in some foreign place,
they have to buy up as much as their credit cards allow.

A cop car rolls by.

Young street kids scatter like paper.

By evening, they turn into tender-eyed whores.

I had too much tequila last night.

At least I think so. I don’t really remember.

The bar-tender was weary of me at the end.

Apparently my sorrows had him sobbing.

And there was a woman I believe
who was offering free samples
of synchronized flesh
to anyone lost and lonely.

But her geography didn’t appeal to me.

And now I have a tall espresso for company.

Plus breeze off the ocean,
that air-conditioning for the masses.

And an awning painted with samba dancers.

I’ve had the highs
but life is just fine here in the valleys.

I’ve also had the shakes.

The sweat on my knuckles is calming me.

Across the street, the sick shunt in and out
of the free clinic.

Next door, behind a golden gateway,
is a fast food joint called McPedro’s.

A guy in ragged clothes discovers
half a hot dog in a trash bin.

There’s something for everyone –
manna from the tourist trade heaven.

I make my own way through this alien world.

I’m staying on the lower floor
of a fake adobe apartment building.

Mobs of dogs and more kids occupy the stoop.

My car’s in the garage and may never come out.

And I don’t always eat so well.

But I love the place anyhow, especially the music.

The dancers entertain me.

I even get up and join them.

Plus I love it when the church gets off its ass
and parades down the street
in colorful ceremonial robes.

And the heat in the spices doesn’t bother me.

Though I can’t say the same
for the thug who runs the tattoo parlor.

And I just love the concept of siesta –
not a bunch of locals squished together
on the sidewalk, heads bowed and hidden
beneath sombreros, but lying flat on my bed
in the heat of noon and seeing how far
a skink can travel across the ceiling.

What I enjoy best about this place
is that I’m never expected anywhere,
am not in a rush to be some place
that’s not exactly where my ass is located.

Except that I don’t carry a sword,
I have much in common with the statue of the soldier.

He can have all that pigeon shit, though.

I’m in a small seaside town
but my dream encompasses the entire peninsular.

Its scented trail is always there for me
whether I take it or not.

Sure it’s an outpost of civilization
with all that that entails.

But I can walk on the beach in my bare feet.

The surf’s not made by machine.

My denim picks up the smells of the surrounds.

And my shirt doesn’t mind a few buttons missing.

I’m nearly bust but the economy around here
doesn’t bother with stimulation.

It’s like an old mutt that runs around until it tires.

As for ideology, the baker also runs a whorehouse.

But only, of course, for the soundest of reasons.

Yes, I’ll have another espresso.

The seagulls have arrived for my viewing pleasure.

They occupy the tallest structure – which isn’t very tall.

But they feel safe where they are.

Better human scraps than tussling for food in the sea.

I’m with them all the way on that one.

Leave a Reply