John Grey

The Searchers

 
When I claimed to have seen the boy,
the others shouted “where?”
But he was already gone.
I was in a bunch of weary men and women
who were more than ready to pack it in,
cold and damp, and aching for their warm beds.
As the others retreated, I stayed behind,
in woods so silent and empty,
nothing rivaled my heartbeat for sound.
The trees felt like the dark walls
of an abandoned church.
the rocks, altars stained with rain.
And I was the preacher without flock.
Or was that the flock without preacher?.
Was the boy really out there?
Every square inch of forest had been trudged through
by his would-be rescuers.
The wind was bitter, clouds low and gray.
It wasn’t winter but not through lack of trying
on the weather’s part.
Maybe he’d found a secret place
out of reach of red-eyed shivering saviors.
When I ran away and hid, I wanted people to find me.
But that was a long time ago.
When I claimed to have seen the boy,
maybe that was me skirting between the trunks,
through the brush, terrified, miserable,
but enacting part of a plan to be retrieved, taken back,
squeezed even deeper into the family fold.
I stopped. I listened to the shouts.
I longed to cry out in return.
But that wasn’t how it was supposed to work.
I had to lead them on that weary chase longer,
until the anger was fully drained from my pursuers
and only the compassion remained behind.
Forty years later, I wait and watch.
The boy is probably home and safe with his mother
tor all I know.
Most likely, only I am out here now.
So do I keep searching?
Or do I go home to bed?
Wait a minute. What was that?
I thought I saw…or felt penetrate.
Small but bright. The boy. But which one?

Famous Writer’s House

 
On another tour of a famous writer’s house,
I stand behind a rope
and take in details of her parlor,
bedroom and even the bath
where she soaked
and perhaps thought up her ideas.

The kitchen table is set
with plastic food.
But the shelves are lined
with the books of real people.
And there’s a desk
in her drawing room
where she wrote her words long hand.
Just looking at it
gives me twinges of
carpal tunnel syndrome.

I’ve spent time with Twain and Hemingway,
even stood outside a Hart Crane abode
though I didn’t go in.
I stayed at the Charles Dickens hotel.
Of course, he didn’t.

But more than just
indulging in their words on paper,
I’m a sucker for where they lived,
sat down to eat, read the newspaper,
quarreled with their wives or husbands,
spat and chewed and pissed.

It makes them seem ordinary
which in turn
makes their accomplishments
even more extraordinary.

I plant my feet
in a famous writer’s footprints.
But, sadly,
the next step is all mine.

***

John-GreyJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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