John Grey, Ignorance is all Bliss can Afford


These vacuums impale me
with the sound of your name.
But I wake up
in the same blue blankets as yesterday,
sweating sunshine,
eyes dancing in the fall of yellow hair.

I can’t make fire with sticks.
I cannot leave myself.
I cannot rub the ointment.
I can go from room to room
I can imagine permanent darkness
and go out of my mind.
I can believe I was
the first man to ever love a woman.
I’m capable of branding that
deep into my head and heart.

But dreams stink of blood.
They attract sharks.
They’re petrol-soaked rags.
They can flare up at any moment.
And they continue
even after I rise
in this frozen house,
even as I celebrate
a new marriage with a good woman.
I should grow wings and soar.
I should open up to you
on this first morning.
What I shouldn’t do
is wrap my feelings around themselves,
make some kind of knot.

You watch HGTV.
You make honey.
You carry sugar in your pocket
to tempt my tender thoughts.

The night you danced
naked around our bed
is now the creak of floorboards,
hot-plate burning,
water hissing
and a thought,
what is tomorrow?

It’s a woman in white.
When she’s loved enough,
red hands and ironed shirts
will replace pert yellow bonnets.


Without email, Gordon would be dead.
He’d be the suicide you read about
in small print in your newspaper.
He drinks this correspondence.
He eats it right off the screen.
To him, the sweetest words
on the planet are ‘You have mail.’
What’s he care if someone
is trying to sell him cut-rate drugs
from Canada or a penis enlarger
or penny stock about to shock the world.
Every day, it’s the same excitement.
He drools over each message.
His mailbox is his harem.
And many is the wife that he responds to.
So what if the Nigerians took his savings.
And some hacker in California
is bleeding his MasterCard dry.
People care enough to write to him.
And he takes the time to
write to them in return.
He’s at the center of something
warm and wonderful.
Friends try but fail him.
But thank God strangers
have his address.


Now the hour is too populated,
with its push, its shove,
its constantly moving epicenter,
sweat and groan and pain,
even the slightest opening
quickly filled with
the first flesh thereabouts.
My senses are foreign regions.
My feet throw away their motion
at the behest of someone else’s elbows,
a stomach as rigid as a sculptor’s block.
Those within go this way, that way,
oblivious to the direction of the whole.
I am no longer singular when
the constant clashing movement
stands me still.
Or I push against the grain
that briefly swallows me,
spews me out into a wedge between
a fat old woman and
a skinny man in pinstripes.
Lungs fight to breathe.
Air is passed around begrudgingly.
Finally, we squeeze our way
through the ballgame turnstiles.
Or into the theater.
Or to the train.
Or close up at the bloody accident
or the celebrity parading by.
Or to trample the ones not like us,
to smash their windows,
plunge burning crosses into their front lawns.
So goes the crush,
all of us together,
none of us a part of it.


They squeeze out of a body
and into their own name.
Bodies washed clean
of another’s insides,
they arc as pure as they ever will be,
crying from shock,
towel-rubbed in a blazing light.

Then they look back at where
they come from,
choose that weary, sore,
suddenly disfigured body
over all these others,
neat and masked.

Their expressions are not new,
nor are their mouths –
their imitations come naturally.
They have no past
but an active present
surveyed with tiny gripping fingers
and futures so powerful
they overwhelm the years remaining
of the wombs that bore them.

There are twenty of them in a room
watched through glass,
fussed over by nurses.
But they are already on their own.
The first ideas come direct.
Their senses work for them alone.

They entered the world knowing nothing
of what we know.
Such ignorance
is all bliss can afford.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently he was published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review, and Columbia Review and he has work forthcoming in Harpur Palate, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

To read more of John, click here.

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