Three Poems by John Grey

FREETOWN 

We struggle to negotiate
mid-morning traffic,
not just cars
but a half-naked drunk
stumbling across the road,
a horse-drawn cart,
and heedless children hauling goats.

At the red light.
homeless men heave forward,
a ragtag army of open palms
going car to car
until the light turns green.

Windows down,
we risk the beggars
but enjoy the scents of
plantains fried in palm oil,
the exotic aroma
of crain-crain and okra
stirred in a large pot.

Our travel is a series of glimpses:
an artisan carving lions and rhinos out of stone,
children munching on
butter-soaked cassava bread
as they shamble into school.

We pass out of the city,
skirt the ocean by road,
watch dazzling painted fishing boats
ride high on the waves.

This world comes no closer
nor does it keep its distance.
It appears here, there,
as if for benefit
of a foreign couple
in a rented car
for whom West Africa
is only slightly less myth now
than the moment we arrived.

FREETOWN

A young boy waves
from the side of the rough bumpy road.
It might be a welcome.
He could be warning us off.
Travel’s like peeling away
the baffling, the strange.
until what you’re left with
is nothing but ignorance.

PLANET CHILD

glow-in-the-dark-stars
stuck to the bedroom walls –

I stretched out my arm
to try to hold light –

the dark was ominous
the stars were well-intended
and they needed no prompting
to shine my way –

tacky yes
but almost beautiful –

I believed in them
as I did in the ones
who glued them into place –

intimate flashlights,
precious objects
of permanent fire –

a wall-paper galaxy
no universe
should be without –

File0005 V3 (2)

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. He has recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Please note: Poetry is compressed to fit smart phone screens. If you are reading this poem on a phone screen, please turn your screen sideways to make sure that you are seeing correct line breaks for this poem.

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