January 6, 2010

John Grey


We needed a fire but matches were verboten
so rubbing two sticks together it had to be.
Just like primitive man, when the tiniest flame
suddenly crackled in the flakes of bark, my heart bounced.
And then when dry leaves suddenly set ablaze
and twigs and broken branches followed,
my chest puffed up like a frog's throat.

In moments, the fire was
huge and hot and bright enough
to make day out of night.
We were surely back there
at the beginning of mankind.
We'd been warmed, we'd seen each
other's faces glowing like kitchen windows.

What was next? Meat for the flame?
Gather stones and wood, forge tools?
Go off into the dark and hunt the beast?
Bludgeon a deer, spear a raccoon?
Back in civilization,
we'd be expected to help old ladies across the street.
More signs that the wheel had been invented.


John Grey, born in Australia, has lived in the USA since the 1970s. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Slant, Briar Cliff Review, Albatross, Poetry East, Cape Rock, REAL and elsewhere.

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