John Grey


I'm watching another movie from the thirties.
A woman coughs. Two scenes later she's dead.
A bevy of beaus is courting Bette Davis. But why?
Black guys wheel suitcases down railway platform.
They smile. Sometimes, they even sing.
Fred Astaire, in black and white, has no discernible body.
I still giggle at the Brothers Marx.
Charlie Chaplin keeps his mouth shut.
Rin Tin Tin saves the day.
And when Errol Flynn swashbuckles,
I have no doubts that they don't make movies like that anymore.
It's more than just lounging on the couch,
the television remote dozing at my side.
This is time travel.
Clark Gable's ears protrude and yet the women love him.
Those same women know their place.
Except when they don't.
It's the time of the depression,
yet it's all about how not to be depressed.
Even when the hero dies, the sobbing keeps its distance.
Besides, murders are solved. Good triumphs.
The girl behind the perfume counter
meets and marries Ray Milland.
Blacks open doors, take hats from visitors.
They smile. Sometimes they even sing.
The war is on its way yet no one's fighting it.
Not when the west needs to be won.
Indians are shot in vast numbers.
They don't smile that I've noticed.
And they sure don't sing.
But, against the odds, people are brave, do the right thing.
And, in the end, they invariably choose the right one.
It's America in black and white,
except it's extremely gray from where I'm sitting.
And, whenever the opportunity arises,
Old Glory, that ubiquitous flag, is raised.
It smiles. Sometimes it even sings.
That my juices stay vital.
The Civil War finally be over.
Fading black and white photographs regenerate themselves
and even add a little color.
That cockroaches no longer breed like cockroaches.
My earwax doesn’t smell.
The chip on my shoulder is chocolate.
A certain side of my personality doesn’t emerge at all.
That gas fumes never again mix with the odors of fish. 
My tuneless punk band has a shot at stardom.
Drummers master their skills without ever having to practice.
Fruit stick to their guns, don’t go rotten.
That faith is rewarded at least once a week.
Mozart replaces Valium in the medicine cabinet.
The shaman’s instructions actually work when carried out.
Ghosts are real and friendly.
That the guy on the barstool next to me is not a cretin.
Bureaucracy is less Kafkaesque.
Strip joints exist only to help in giving directions.
Interaction runs smoother.
That book-reading militias replace the gun-toting kind.
Vacant lots find something to do.
The gas station urinal is not stuffed with paper.
There’s a parking space at the bakery.
That anyone who wishes to be alone can be.
The forest remain deep, secret and just noisy enough.
Shell-shock be reserved for those seated near the amps at heavy metal concerts.
Charlie Parker’s not forgotten.
That, should the occasion demand, the air be full of horns and hallelujahs.
Or, if not, be as quietly dazzling as the stars.
Wishes, once vetted for possible harm to others, come true.
Four generations of my family can exist peacefully in one house at one time. 
That I’m invited to the right parties.
There’s still old hippies in the world.
All my motives are genuine.
That it’s not too much to ask.

From this whirlpool
as it spins through space,
the view through 
windows of the massive
inscrutable buildings 
has an unreal quality,
fine furniture 
and shiny waxed hardwood floors
like occasional glints of hope,
but the man in the chair
with bald head and glazed eyes
suffering through the doom
of every last one of his ambitions.
like a lizard 
without the tongue reflexes
to zap that passing fly
as his fingers tap
the inevitable thrum
of the grave,
the clogged artery
of dust and worms
that ultimately puts
every last one of us
out of circulation –
did I say “window”?
I meant mirror.

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