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By John Grey

PROMPT—I am grateful for ...

Through the spiny leaves of the agave, I watch a man pour honey

in his tea,

in a sidewalk cafe in a southern French town, in milky heat

as a throng of young people cross the street

and a woman, thirtyish, dressed in black, steps out from the midst of them,

stops, snaps photographs of people (myself included) at these tables.

So I’m with the stalkers now am I.

I watch the man slowly wipe the sweat from his brow, his hand

riding wrinkled dunes like a caravan across the desert.

Then he reads a little from his book.

The plant fills me in on the author though not the title.

So what shall I do this afternoon?

That much postponed boat ride on the river?

That people watcher's paradise, the park, and its impeccable benches?

Wherever I go, every sight's a postcard, every face is a foreign life.

I get so immersed I don't know my temples from a wheezy accordion,

my tongue from another language.

The mind is always at the threshold.

The docks are felicitous magnets.

Fishermen drip with local color.

Boats caked with bird-dung, nets that float like feathers on the sea,

fish slapping on decks, applauding their own capture.

I am grateful that a country puts on an unconscious show for me.

What if my coffee drinker shouts to me, "Yankees in five"

and the book he's reading's by Rush Limbaugh.

Or if the night-club dancer stopped her act to complain about

the traffic on the Tappan Zee,

Or the street musicians played "Copacabana."

Luckily, even if they tried, these fishermen couldn't Americanize

one rotted pier pole, one twisted rope.

And I will always be a tourist with souvenir eye and curious fingers.

Everywhere I go, I take what I leave behind.


John Grey is an Australian poet and U.S. resident. His work has been recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Red Weather. His latest books, Covert, Memory Outside The Head, and Guest Of Myself are available through Amazon. His writing is forthcoming in Washington Square Review and Open Ceilings. John writes from Johnston, VT.


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