A NIGHT IN BUCHAREST
In the third floor apartmentof a fortress-like building,
from before the fall of Communist Romania,
hers were the last first-hand stories
I heard of pre-industrial Transylvania,
through cracked dry lips
a voice as staticky
as the console radio
in the middle of the room.
Great-great-grandmother of a friend,
slunk down in her favorite armchair,
surrounded by fading photographs
of smiling village faces,
her escape from evil’s clutches
could have happened yesterday
for all the feeling in her narrative.
Her tale moved apace
from a stroll through a moonlit forest
to an encounter with the piercing eyes
of a black-robed creature,
the strange compelling feeling
that drew her closer to him
to the sudden glint
of the crucifix around her throat,
and the other’s stumble backward
that gave her the one chance
to turn on her heels
and run back to the safety
of the well-lit tavern.
"Of course, this must just sound like
an old woman’s fantasies
to you young people,"
But when she was finished
recounting the grisly fate
of her friend, Gabriela,
who, to this day,
floats by her bedroom window
they were our fantasies too.
UP FROM THE OCEAN
The ones splashing in the ocean are no longer us.
No need to even bother looking.
That's sand in the folds of your skin.
That's a rock pressed hard against your back.
It's something called an issue
that rides the breakers into shore,
that rolls about in the waves,
giggling and flailing,
that looks like us but is not us.
You won't hear them
lauding the aesthetics of the perfect tan.
Their dreams don't bother with
five hours in this natural salon,
lazily eying the pages of something
from the New York Times bestseller list.
The lotion on their faces
is dabbed on skimpily,
in those excited few seconds
when their feet can barely stand still
and their bodies lurch
toward the magnet of the sea.
It doesn't take the leisurely approach,
a rub here, a massage there,
into aging back and shoulder-blades.
For them, a giddy topple
and a mouthful of brine.
For us, the nudge of a familiar thigh,
an occasional warm kiss.
As always there's a generation gap,
twenty feet or so of golden sand.
Hand in hand, a teenage couple cross it,
plant footprints deep to them,
but shallow to the tides.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty, with work upcoming in Blueline,
Chronogram and Clade Song.