Oct/Nov 2009 Poetry

Three Poems

by John Grey

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Venice in Summer

Gondola is tied up to its painted pole.
Brown sludge drifts idly by.
The gondolier is upstairs screwing
the butcher's wife.

Tourist won't be satisfied
until he's been poled around the city,
waits beside the bobbing boat
for its owner to return.

It's Venice on a summer's day:
torrid sex, sweaty impatience.
A rat crawls from a crevasse in the crumbling stone,
the third of this triumvirate.


Anna, Let Me Introduce Some More of Me to You

The sun's not even the sun as yet,
just this gray shapelessness on the horizon
hauling its own escaping light back with its nets.
Some kingfishers roll their eyes at a sudden
movement in the mud.
A trawler nudges away from the dock,
a few men on deck, some with coffee
gladly blistering their palms, some with
bent heads, hands asleep in their pockets,
while those too old to man the vessels these days
sadly sail the benches.

There's a time between this happening and the
rest of the town rousing itself awake,
when I arrive with pole and creel and sandworms.
I am alone but not lonely.
The fishermen have gone out to sea
and the old men drift into sorrowful sleep,
and there's these minutes you can think of
when you think of me, a time of gray shadow
and shape that begin to separate at last,
that even scrape up, from the penurious light,
the barest hint of color.

I drape my legs over the side of the wooden jetty.
Minnows stir silver at my feet.
I have this world to myself.
Its air is still. Its sky so close,
I wear it like a sweater.
Remember me like this, damp and cold,
with my line dangling.
Remember me slowly coming into focus
but nothing of you on my hook as yet.



I spied a copperhead coiled up on a dead limb
floating in brown water.

I held my scream like hands around a pine bat
bracing for the bunt.

I moved nervously down the slope of the bank
for a clearer view of his dark patterned skin.

His flat head drifted upward at my approach,
one dark eye turned toward me.

A black wake of current idled between us,
rippling tree shadow also crouched and ready to spring.

He slowly sized me up as bigger than a frog, a swamp hare,
so he unreeled himself, slid into the water.

The tree limb rocked at his departure, like a snake itself
in fading light, taut and humming like my nerves.


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