John Grey


He runs a hand across the flattest, hardest
square foot of his land.
It's alive at least.
His wife watches him
from the knee-dirt of her garden.
Next time, his fingers rub across
those leather cheeks,
he'll plant no seed,
expect no crop, no harvest.
Likewise, her eyes will grow no roses
in his wrinkled brow.
His is a stolid, clay-pan face,
not worth fertilizing.
Work sunup to sundown,
rape the hands raw,
break the back,
just so they can eat in silence,
sleep in separate beds.
It's a tough life,
an even tougher compromise


She speaks of the time
when the dam cracked
and a once passive river
came down from the hills roaring.
Water overflowed the banks, 
flooded the memorial park, 
crossed street after street 
right up to her family's doorstep.
It stayed there for a week
like an unwanted relative
ringing the bell over and over
though they'd no intention of letting it in.
The town was smothered in mud, 
and dead trees, and horse flies 
she swears were as big as the equine 
that gave them their name.
Eventually, the flood receded
but it didn't restore what had been there before.
Not with the heat moving in.
And the silt as foul-smelling as corpses.
She says that three people died 
but many more lost everything, 
And so many animals were drowned. 
And crops. And gardens.
The townsfolk spent the entire summer
cleaning up both outside and in.
A few just gave up and left for good.
The rest agreed that life would never be the same.
Some politician said that steps were being taken 
to make sure it would never happen again. 
He was referring to the dam of course. 
But folks took him to mean the town they knew.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and the Round Table. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.

Flights. Issue Two, September 2021