Posted by on March 6, 2017

Written by John Grey

Photography by Fabrice Poussin

March 6, 2017


ONE CANDIDATE

His face was domed by

a high-browed bald head

that made his ears look

as if they had slipped down

six inches below their original position.

And he never went anywhere

without beaming a permanent smile

of gracious idiocy.

 

His wife, forever at his side,

was red-beaked with a crest

of feathery blonde hair.

Her eyes were so stiff

that, when she blinked,

her checks creaked.

 

He was out for those voters

who preferred their candidates

cold as fish in deep storage

and with a touch of the imperial, the imperious,

and a thought process

often overtaken on the road to reason

by glaciers.

 

Everywhere he went,

he extended his clockwork arm

to shake the hands of the faceless

while his wife stood marble stiff

like she was centering a fountain.

 

What viewers most remember from his televised debate

was his vow to restore the lost art of bell-ringing

to the public school system.

 

When the tallies came in.

he had garnered 12 percent of the vote.

That’s nine hundred and seventy-three people

who are to be excused from partaking

in the next fifty years or so of human history.


THIS AFTERNOON VERSUS BACK IN THE DAY

Stroll down the inner city street

past tattoo parlors and bars

store-front churches and upstairs brothels

 

pause at the shuttered hardware store

to remember shopping for screws and washers with your father

while marveling at how

he always knew the exact size thread he needed

 

enter the second-hand bookstore

where dusty complete works of Shakespeare

compete with half-price recent paperbacks

 

walk by tenements, some occupied, some abandoned

greet the kids on the stoops as if you know them

and wave to the ancient faces in the windows –

the shock might do them some good

avoid the fly-blown grocery store

the smoke shop selling lottery tickets

and especially the sex and novelty emporium

with its drugged up dancers

rubbing against the glass of tiny booths –

your mother could be watching

 

remember what was good about all this

like the basketball court and the ballfield

and the stream of course

but not where it curls around the closed-up factory

like a snake brown and poisonous

still hissing with old chemicals

 

you can’t change where you came from

so you may as well embrace it

before the council snatches it in the name of eminent domain

razes everything to make way for a highway extension

 

you’re just about to make your getaway

when the local pusher is trying to sell you something

you can feel honored that he takes you for a customer

and proud when you emphatically decline


OBSERVATION POINT

I like to sit

on one of these riverbank benches

 

watch men casting their lines

for catfish

while sipping from bottles of something

called Iniquity Black Ale

 

and barges gliding downstream

 

and tiny putt-putt boats

cruising bank to bank

 

and behind me,

a family seated at a picnic table

while a middle-aged man,

in apron and cook’s hat.

barbecues chicken

and there,

where a low-tide curve

leaves behind a pebbly beach,

kids splashing up to their knees.

 

The fishermen offer to share their beer

 

and a guy on a barge,

the red-faced captain of the tiny boat.

 

wave to me

and the cookout folks

tender a leg

dripping with brown sauce

in my direction

and a little boy

yells from the beach beyond,

“Come on in. The water’s great.”

 

Life wouldn’t pass me by

even if it could.

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