Table of Contents - Vol. VI, No. 4
In a hundred years, there'll be no trace of us.
Even the brooms that sweep the comers
will probably outlast the sweepers.
How clean the sheets, how warm the blankets.
Who will know? And the kiss at midnight.
Who will know?
Keep diaries sure, but dumpster rats
will write their last chapter.
Tie up letters in ribbons, stow them
in attic trunks but what use are emotions
to ones who never felt them?
Think of it. A hundred years from now
and no glance across the table,
no fumbling hands, no long silences
that patter back and forth like conversation.
Maybe the house will still be here
but three families will have lived in it since us.
Or it could be demolished for shops, for schools,
Living is a lousy mourner.
So who will know?
Have kids, the older generation insists.
But what are we to them.
Aunts and uncles? Do they still
heave together in the night?
Or even parents.
Even when we're with them, we don't know.
A hundred years from now
there may as well be no hundred years ago.
And yet here we are.
And it feels so fine to hold you.
No one will ever know this.
Thank God, I am that no one.
The invisibility is at an end.
The man you can see straight through is dead.
He chopped off his transparent arms
so real flesh and body arms could appear.
His legs, his torso, went the way of the dodo bird,
his nearest relative.
He's replaced them with something more opaque,
all sorts of bodily functions
strapped into place with skin so obvious
you can touch it.
And one quick blow toppled that bogus head
and one with a face has taken its place.
It may be too late for Mary Ellen, age fifteen,
who walked right by me thirty years ago
and didn't even smile.
Or for Sister Mary Rose who never saw my hand raised,
went through life not knowing
that I could point to Germany on a map.
But it's not for cheerleaders or nuns that I do this.
Gale will be home soon.
Something of me needs to be discernable, detectable,
otherwise what use is her voice, her lips, her hug.
I hear her car in the driveway.
In a moment or two, we'll be in each other's arms.
I always knew there'd come a time
when self-evidence would win life's argument,
when content is required.
I loathe you Laundromat,
for not being a college lawn,
for not being a co-ed's tender lips.
And I am ashamed of me for being here,
hauling a green bag full of dirty clothes
through your door.
Why aren't I among the artists and the poets?
Why couldn't I be in Paris?
I know the kind of art they peddle here:
a year old Sports Illustrated with the cover missing,
People Magazine, something ironically titled "Us".
If only I could be free of you,.
of your clunky machines,
your vacuous steam.
But I wear underwear and shirts and trousers,
and, worst of all, socks...
who would love me if they smelled
the living in my socks?
Fifty cents worth of detergent,
a handful of the grungiest
poked into the washing monster,
I am at the lowest of the low.
A woman grunts hello to me.
A man says, "What about them Red Sox!"
I hold my tongue.
I am the invention of all that is pathetic in this world.
Whose idea was it
that the excreta of the body
should be such a willful part of life?
I'm weighted down with dirt.
I reek of sweat.
Shit, shave, urinate, salivate,
how was I to know that
feeling would be one of many?
Nothing to do now but
stare bleakly at the spin cycle,
for life is cycles,
and each must have its spin.
© John Grey