John Grey


Your boundaries are all around you

from the broken planks of the kitchen floor

to the nails, many times driven up from below.

Cradling a cross in a mongrel bed,

with a dog the color of murky dusk,

nibbling on anything-will-do food

with only a scar on your wrist for guidance,

no longer thinking up excuses to love someone again.

Parents thrown together without inspiration,

on some street named for a cure for constipation,

rough as the switch leaning against the wall,

learning the lingo of frog croak.

Wind through cracked window,

fierce as the eyes of some old wretch

trying to pick up children in the park,

and unintentionally critical

like everything that touches you,

even those undisciplined hands.

Snake slid in here once, you remember,

a wake-up call for someone who didn’t sleep so well anyhow –

it didn’t bite –

not a snake anyhow,

just some man who said he was your uncle.


My buds have taste memory.

That’s why they’ve not moved on

from alcohol.

At least, the weather’s in the now,

even if its only wind

and rain.

I stand here,

snarled in dampness,

skin shivering,

hair a thick brown puddle.

Drops penetrate my lips.

I can taste myself.

She’s not here.

No arms caress me.

My ears are whisper-less.

It’s up to the booze

to encompass,

the weather to embody.

And the rain keeps falling,

dares me to do the same.

But my hand is raised.

I’m looking for a taxi.

If one stops,

surely it will take me

some place.

I live in hope.

Maybe it can drive me there.


I stand in the shadow of the city.

Its silhouette pats my head.

Around me, stalls and pushcarts

sell the wares I smell.

It’s almost dusk.

The choicest of the choice are gone.

The rest have been picked over.

What’s not green is red or yellow.

But for the fish,

their gray scales topped with ice,

forlorn faces gazing up

at the darkening sky.

For five bucks, I have myself

a box of mangoes,

immigrants far from their homeland,

a taste of the tropics in Boston.

The vendors are packing up.

Customers drift away.

Nearby, Quincey Market

is about to shake off its history,

become night-life.

A desire for something fresh

vacates the shuttered stands,

is taken up by bars and restaurants. 

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