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as the contest nears its climax - john grey


Forget the time spent setting catfish hooks on his wedding night,

the lakeside cottage is left to the man who rewards himself each morning

with fried eggs and bacon and coffee by the bucket-load.

All his mistakes are forgiven by his loneliness,

by the old rusty truck with four flat tires

and the hens that range free in his yard.

Arthritis is his reward for behaving badly around women.

And half a lung can’t disguise his thwarted passion for cigarettes.

He still loves his beer and a harmonica he can’t play

and, of course, anything his line can drag out of the waters.

He survives on the land in a way his mother and father couldn’t.

For he asks for very little and that’s what he gets.

There was the day he marched out of step in the parade

and, of course, he was drunk on many a Christmas

and as argumentative as a driver in clogged up freeway traffic.

But he’s grown older than people’s memories.

And the raccoons and skunks are happy enough

that his rifle is one more thing that doesn’t fire.

Crows curse, deer nibble, warblers sip at the view from his window.

Forget his explosions. Seventy-five years of age is his calmer side.

Someday, someone will find him dead in his favorite Adirondack chair

with a smile he earned from passing on alone,

and withered distorted limbs as respectable as any tree boughs

in the forest hereabouts.



John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Santa fe Literary Review, and Sheepshead Review. Latest books, ”Between Two Fires”, “Covert” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, La Presa and California Quarterly..

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