2 poems by John Grey

That Breakdown

We haven’t come this far
to be so unamused have we,
to be broken down at the side of the road.
“This is just like you,”
is all you have to say.
I don’t thank you for the metaphor,
merely blurt out the usual,
“This trip was your idea.”
May as well go back to the beginning
when the car was whole and new,
likewise our plans.
May as well be sitting at the kitchen table
with maps sprawled out before us,
our fingers tracing routes,
our minds steering them.
When did a finger ever break down
at the edge of paper,
or a mind trying to figure
if that odd checkered line
is a bridge or a ferry.
We could have stayed at home
and tracked all the journeys in the world,
from continent to continent, pole to pole.
Halfway across the Atlantic…
let’s see a car get out of that one.
In the frozen depths of Antarctica…
what’s an oil-change then?
The problem with us is that there’s
what we set out to do
and the actual doing.
Like us, they don’t speak sometimes.
Like us, they’re at the edge
of an Iowa cornfield
cursing American manufacturing,
like it hasn’t been the same
since love and marriage.


I can talk this strange language.
I can use the words “funds transfer pricing”,
“regulatory reporting”, ”intercompany eliminations”
in polite conversation
though not so polite
that anyone can understand.

Between sips of morning coffee,
I’m customer focused,
production supportive,
process empowered.

And I can understand it
from the mouths of others also.
When my manager exults us all
with “Teamwork,” “diversity,”
“inclusive meritocracy”,
I’ve no need to dip into my Webster’s.
It’s business-ese as a first language.
Who knows what comes second.

Even at night,
my lover’s aching for romance
but all I have to give are ‘business safeguards,”
“system impacts,” “cost overruns.”

She loves me, she says.
I file that under “assumptions.”
She wants to stay with me forever.
How can that be
when she doesn’t even have
a five year plan?

Yes, I know there’s more to life than work
but even living has its “hardware requirements,”
its “rules of engagement,”
its “processing flow.”

But suddenly,
without even evaluating the business impacts,
I tell her that I love her too.
She smiles sweetly.
Ah.. .nothing like a pat on the back
for a job well done.

You know how it is,
winds don’t stop blowing.
Look out your window
and expect to see
people hurled by like leaves or even seeds,
landing for a moment here or there
before being gusted on,
like no surface is enough for them.

You can even imagine yourself out there,
hair flying and sparking,
body useless before the forces of nature,
almost slammed into a tree trunk one moment,
skimmed across a lake
like a pebble the next.
It makes you aware
of the way the house holds you down,
the man in the bed too,
even as he sleeps through
this mad rebellion of the air.

So what’s next?
The newspaper that won’t slow down
long enough for its headlines to be read?
Trash tossed from a car
and chasing that car down?
Maybe even people you know,
just blurs as they whiz by,
without the sense to stay indoors,
or could it be you’ve too much sense
to take what the wild wind offers.

Strange how the wind makes you shudder
but it’s the calm you really fear.
Can’t walk from one room to another
without the timber hard down on your shoulders,
the walls, doors, flush against your face.
Can’t breathe any oxygen that hasn’t been
down in his lungs first.
And then the wind outside starts to die down
like it’s a stillness inside dead already.


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Jeremiah Walton

Jeremiah Walton is wary of writing a bio.

2 thoughts on “2 poems by John Grey”

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