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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Tau, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex, and Midwest Quarterly.


Trigger Warning

You swear to me this air is fresh.
That’s like saying water has a flavor.
I feel as if I’m inhaling and exhaling nothing.
Where’s the smog? Where’s the car horns?
Where the crowds? Where’s the jackhammers?
This is not air at all.
It’s a slap in the face for oxygen lovers everywhere.

We walk by a field where a crop of something is growing.
You tell me what it is but I immediately forget.
And, you add, this is where the food on my plate comes from.
But I don’t see fancy flatware, a waitress,
a menu, a wine list, a dozen other tables
of clanging silverware and loud conversation.
Spare me the aphorisms.
This isn’t food. It’s just grass that’s been listening
to too many Aaron Copland symphonies.
It’s gone all pretentious on top.

The herd of cows you point out invoke a similar reaction.
As do the pigs in the sty. As for the sheep –
sorry but their wool and the latest GQ fashions
inhabit quite different universes.
Should we go horseback riding? you ask.
Why, I reply. The ostriches are on lunch break?

Then I get a lecture on how the land I’m standing on
is the true heart of America.
But when was it ever broken by that woman I met
in the coffee house on Wickenden?

And when did its beat ever triple in tempo
to that blues group I heard down at Lupo’s?
The problem with the country, I said,
more than the air, and the crops and the animals,
is all these self-righteous country-folk.
They give self-righteous city folks ideas.

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