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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in New World Writing, California Quarterly and Lost Pilots. Latest books, “Between Two Fires”, “Covert” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Isotrope Literary Journal, Seventh Quarry, La Presa and Doubly Mad.


Trigger Warning

From out of winter forest,
bearded men, in heavy coats and boots,
drag dead bodies by the ears,
creatures caught in snares, hair fluttering,
stomachs dragged across the snow
leaving a trail of red.

In the kitchens, mothers, grandmothers,
feed the wood stove in anticipation
while hungry children dart here and there,
stopping every so often to peek out the iced-up windows
for a sight of their fathers, older siblings,
coming home.

And there they are,
trudging up the path,
white-cheeked and stubbly red,
weary but satisfied at a good day’s catch,
meat for the pot, skins for the market.
They’re greeted with grateful cheers
as they clamber through the open front door.

The house is a paean to dank skin and hacking coughs,
dead smells and fire burning.
Stew is on the menu. It is the menu.
A homeless man sliced and emptied,
two hikers caged in ice
Enough to feed an extended family
for a week at least.

Children press backs to the kitchen wall.
watch the skinning, the chopping,
in fascination.
A stranger who once showed kindness
to these little cherubs
is now bubbling in a mid-winter pot.

Then they sit up at the table,
eagerly await the dish to be laid before them.
Once again,
the meal’s not a what
but a who.

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