Night, My Role in It

“Shaving”, “Chez Heaven” and “Night, My Role in It”

In Issue 17 by John Grey

Night, My Role In It


I hate shaving.

Thinking enlists in its war.

The two dimensions of reflection

summarize me.

Foam licks my temporal chin,

I confess to the razor how

I'm leaving immortality behind

for someone else to believe in like a dolt.

I'm planning to pack love up in gray bags,

tossing it in the back of a gray car

on a dismal gray night

and driving it down gray streets

through gray fog

to the gray waterfront

where I'm dumping its gray body

in the deep gray bay.

And immortality,

that series of apposite deluding mirrors,

is the heirloom I will pass down,

morphine for the masses

with their beliefs balanced precariously

on white horses like circus dolls

and the way they stare out at the universe

and somehow relate it to

the thrill of working senses,

the thrust of beating hearts.

Science, I'm tying up

with its buttocks exposed,

a dark pleasure hole

for all who believe in the rotting worth

of labor-saving devices,

bombs and metallic bigness.

Even electric shavers.

The muscled tree of commerce

I leave to its chain-smoking branches,

the many faces of its bark,

its snake roots, the moth-eaten suicide

of its blood-red leaves.

And love, that gray-faced war correspondent

is frothing gray and lukewarm

in my throat.

It doesn’t want to wait for its gray formal burial.

It prefers to be vomited up like Marxism

in the heady days of the early nineties

when gray curtains fell

and we all cheered the gray banded worm of democracy.

Love would just as easily

mix with last night's turnip,

undercooked pork, wretched wine.

It could be a momentary Angkor,

gray Buddha balustrades,

gray stone monuments

to peace, bat-towers and oral sphincters.

The brain-suck of politics

I stash under a blind rock.

Patriotism I pour down the gutter.

As for religion, I still pray to its gray-haired parents,

but faith has all the decommissioned lines

of a Duchamp painting these days.

It’s a tractor pull on TV

between evangelists and serial killers.

The gray love is embarrassing me.

I should have removed it sooner.

I left some behind on a woman's red vagina.

I gave a handful to the beggar man,

stained his fingers.

Should have washed it down the sink

with the cigarette ash (its patron saint.)

Should have let the wind handle it,

or that baritone voice on the radio.

Should have carved it into tiny dots

that only a sex-starved nun would recognize.

Meanwhile, art has been aborted in the second semester.

Not even Kafka or Samuel Beckett survives.

I'm growing a gray beard and I hate that.

But, if I shave, I leave gray in places

that a lover could get at.

The nihilist, I believe, should be more

than clean shaven,

He should cut into the skin,

bleed the red of his own stinging amusement

Chez Heaven

You have no altar

so a restaurant table will have to do.

No hymns,

unless there’s a singing waiter.

And the service is good,

a kind of high mass

where, instead of wafer,

it's clams on the half-shell.

And wine,

but not a cursory sip.

No, you devour God's blood

and then some.

And the main course

is prime rib,

just the way you like it;

a sermon on the pleasures

of fresh meat, medium rare,

mushroom source,

fresh asparagus,

and creamy mashed potatoes.

It's no church

but it has its own ideas

on the nearest thing to heaven.

And praise is due along with the bill.

You pay willingly.

You can't thank the menu enough.

Night, My Role in It

Some sunlight, some darkness,

much paradox,

the ending of the day,

the unsuspected triumph of the night

and, in windy tree branches

or people walking by,

the little bits of motion

that must be doing it;

can't be the turning of the earth surely,

can't be something as unimaginable

as it is obvious;

can't ask the light,

it doesn't know,

nor the shadow,

it just moves in where it's told,

but there's wind,

there's men and women

going places,

and me, on the porch,

third wine, first cigar,

rocking, rocking, rocking:

planet rotation indeed...

surely causality

is not as uninvolving

as all that.

About the Author

John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, the Hawaii Review and Visions International.

Read more work by John Grey .

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