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The Old Couple Next Door
In a New Neighbourhood
Let's Pretend at the Wake

Three poems by John Grey
Published August 16, 2015

The Old Couple Next Door

Years are finally having their say.
All the beauty treatments extant
can't hide those wrinkles.
And she's broken down fashion-wise as well.
Now, she dresses to match her fading.
And what about him.
The comb-over is on its last teeth.
The belt's protest goes unheeded.
They still speak to one another
but more as an acknowledgment of breathing
than with a lover's voice.
He reads his newspaper at the breakfast table.
She listens to the radio.
No music. Just phone-in listeners complaining
One more day just like yesterday.
He'll whine about the price of bread.
She'll carp about the weather.
They don't look forward to death exactly.
At least, not while they can look back on it.

Let's Pretend at the Wake

I kneel before the dead,
pretend to appreciate the moment.
Dear to me they were in life
but had they been a corpse
all these years
then surely it would have been
a whole different story.
All these others
go through the same play-acting.
I will lose most, if not all, of them someday.
That's "lose"
in never carrying on a conversation
or hugging and being hugged back.
That's "lose"
as in coffins and wreaths
and organ music.
I’m supposed to toss reality out the window
on such occasions,
make believe that the dead and I
are whispering our goodbyes.
But those eyes are destitute,
the face impoverished,
the folded hands penurious.
My next breath is worth a billion of this man.
Slowly, ceremony is swallowed by heavy curtains,
drowned in a brace of tears.
My sorrow is happy to finish on a more logical note.

In a New Neighbourhood

A child screams from the house next door,
terrifies the sweet, beautiful breeze.
It's a wind now and I feel scattered.

A bowl of fruit, fresh picked flowers
adorn the table.
The name of a book I'm reading
stares up from the spine.

So wiry do I feel like eating my arm
all the way up to the elbow?
Or reading the ungainly shadows
rather than the words of a stranger?

A child wants what it can't have.
I don't know what I want,
only where I live.

So, though I desire sleep,
I make coffee.
Then I forget that I
even put the kettle on.
Steam screams.
I wonder if the child hears.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New
Plains Review
, Rockhurst Review and Spindrift with work upcoming in
South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit and Louisiana Literature.  
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