The Snake River and other poems by John Grey

snake, water, animal-2066516.jpg


River is a snake,
won’t straighten its backbone
for any stretch of land.
Sure, its waters all dump out
into the ocean eventually
but, when traveling downstream,
it prefers the scenic route

Farmland, houses, bridges,
it takes them all in.
And, when it comes to town planners,
it’s mischievous.
Main Street’s shaped like a dumb grin.
Streets are so windy,
cars see the vehicle behind them
like it’s out ahead.

A plane overhead
must figure it for a giant sidewinder
sashaying legless across
those fecund wheat fields below.
They won’t see the head though.
Probably doesn’t have one.

For all the splashing and fishing
in its waters,
there’s no one ever claimed to be bit.

It’s just a quirk of geography
that people around here
have turned into a quirk of living.
Bend in the river equals twist in the road
equals unexpected turn of events.
What do they care
if the lay of the land
is more than a match for randomness.


Boisterous people in the park,
one clown,
one farmer leading a heifer down a hill,
elm grove to the right,
bleats from a nearby field,
church bells tolling, a barn,
a gas nozzle dancing in
the smelly forecourt of the gas station
while wind whips the sign
that says so much for regular,
and so much for supreme.
the town Sousa
blows his tuba.
God bless America,
God bless the town’s one cab.
Man on horse,
real estate agent locking up,
manila folder beneath arm.
Stalled seeder, tractor pulling discs,
rusty truck, pretty farmer’s daughter…

a distant argument that dies
quicker than a paper plane.
Fruit seller, choice cukes,
melons big as melon growers’ heads,
old ladies in their sunlit finest,
old men talking bull about bulls.
Flag at high mast,
sparrows under eave,
tuba kills mosquitoes as five paces,
hand in hand, teenage lovers,
chickadee chirping from the alder bough.
Broken tree trunk,
lightning twenty years ago,
pregnant woman,
lightning seven months back.
Here’s the mayor.
(He’s also the town barber.)
Here’s the prom queen,
the river and the sky.


It doesn’t matter
that most prey skitters away.
Experience adds to itself.
Even an aborted hunt
packs a thrill.

No stain on stealth.
That pounce is not to blame.
The will to live will always have
a step or two on hunger,

You’re left frustrated
but by who?
Not by the deer to come.
Not by the rabbit after that.

You’re the paramount predator
in these parts.
What you do next will always matter.


Keep going,
Your eyes trust you.
Descend into the flower,
close enough to bind
your ashes to the petals,
to overrule bee’s law,
brush it from the bud.

Bend deep.
Don’t worry.
Your vertical
can afford to lose you.
Strike out from your thoughts.
Dangle your old coat flesh
on the hook of sensibility.

Your soul is here.
Your forebears likewise.
More of you
grows on stems
than bones would ever

dare admit.

Color wraps around you.
You’re as invisible
as ripe perfume.
Without fingers,
you touch everything
at once.
You listen to nothing
and it comes in
loud and clear.
Certainties don’t recognize you.
Your face
is all but breeze.
You gain in senses
what you lose in name.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Rathalla Review. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.

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