John Grey is an Australian poet and U.S. resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Rockhurst Review and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit and Louisiana Literature.
A MAN AFRAID OF LIGHTNING
Please be here for me, Loretta.
Somewhere above, intense heat and light meet up.
I'm not prepared for the utter violence of the sky.
Could you make coffee?
No, not instant. I've a can of Kona Coast blend.
One sugar, a little cream. That's how I like it.
In the late afternoon, I take heed of what the clouds are doing.
When they mass like this, their grayness squeezed into black,
I know any moment now, a positive charge
will leap through the nether to complete an electrical circuit.
It's what you call lightning. To me, it's a
negative to ground strike of sheer belligerence.
My body trembles at times like these. I lose my head.
But sometimes a good cup of coffee calms me.
Yes, I know all about caffeine. But there's something
to a cup balanced on my knee, the aroma of
the far away, the slow sips, the savoring.
I'm like an Englishman in his battered castle
during the Nazi bombings of London,
Only his drug of choice was tea of course.
But it's more than the coffee, It the fact
that someone makes it and brings it to me.
People still look after one another.
Lightning strikes. That's how I know.
Someday I will go to Mombasa,
to shade beneath
the dark-green mango leaves,
or shinny up the coconut tree.
I'll walk the shore of
the indigo Indian ocean
or stroll through streets
of ramshackle houses,
minarets and mosques.
I'll walk in footsteps of
ten thousand Arab and Persian merchants,
laden down with carpets, spices, gemstones,
or of local traders loudly
hawking skins and ivory.
Sure, slaves were bartered there
but the cool sea-breeze
will refine old guilt into ancient history
as a woman leans out of her window
and sings so lilting, lyrical,
and a fisherman drags
his catch up on the docks
harmonizing with the muezzin's call.
An elderly man dressed
in long flowing white kanzu,
an embroidered kofia on his head
will nod at me as a child
kicks a soccer ball through my feet.
I'll sit beneath the casuarina tree at sunset,
and watch the colors of gardenias,
bougainvillea, oleanders, poincianas,
slip over the horizon,
unneeded by the dark.
I am clotted hormones at the club
under the rotating disco hall.
I am what a martini aspires to do
to the pretty woman up at the bar.
I am the hollow in my guts.
I am a lifetime plot against the hangman.
I am silhouette when what I really mean is shadow.
I am an implement of pleasure.
Try me sometime.
I am the early bird
that tortures the worm
before devouring it.
I am whoever eats sardines and likes it.
I am Joe Friday
or is that Plug Ugly "Wednesday.
I am a lifetime subscription to Guns And Ammo.
I am something to be avoided.
I am the leak in ten thousand roofs.
I am the arsonist with the stolen matches.
I am the killer in the nursery, the hothead in the dream.
I am the pacing tiger in the zoo.
I am the long arm of the law, my law.
I am six down, ten letters, in the New York Times
Saturday crossword puzzle.
And you think you can solve me.
I am the one who,
when there's nothing left to say,
says, now let's talk about you.
you're the empty chair by this.