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John Grey

Eight P.M. at the Trailer Park

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Trailer's silver in the moon,
pickup's rusty as November trees.

Her shoes sparkle on the narrow floor.
Feet slip in and out of them.

See, she says to no one in particular,
they still fit.

But which pair will she wear tonight
Her neighbor's home. She can hear him coughing.

Tonight, she'll dance surely,
all the sequin flashing.

Do people still dance?
As long as she does, then people do.

What does her neighbor say?
He has bronchitis. Going on five years of it.

Maybe it's cancer. That's what Jack sounded like.
He was gone before he even asked her

for the next dance.
And she with a dozen pairs of shoes to choose between.

And still living in their old trailer,
with his old pickup where he parked it last.

And her neighbor coughing half the night.
Still, it wouldn't hurt to dance a little.

In-Laws Day

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In-laws arrive on dogsleds, helicopters.
It's in-laws' day, 1995.

Some tried swimming the Pacific to get here but drowned.
Others dropped from parachutes.
Their bones are splattered across my yard and a neighbor's.

Some are merely human heads
pinned to photographic paper.
Others are gifts that none dare open.

The ones that do make it
spread out into every room.
Each television is tuned to their favorite show.
The stove crackles with the gems
from their book of recipes.

And they talk and talk.
The gossip revolves around
a breakdown, a divorce, an autistic child.
It's more festive than a dog fight.

Every one of them is trained in the art
of pretend grief and real blackmail.
They've all acquired the skill
for doing better than anyone else.
If they bust a window or a vase
or a silence
then it deserved to be broken.

The house is under in-laws' law.
They tell me where to sit.
They give my life's work
to the pitbull as a chew toy.

The sentimental favorite
in today's cruelty stakes
is that behind every in-law infestation
is a marriage.

So it's love's fault.
Love -
a vehicle for two
that's forever taking on passengers.

The Porch

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Nothing between her and the insects
but that fine mesh.
Tiny bugs swarm at the tiny holes,
unable to force their bodies through.
They want to get at her flesh,
bite, suck blood.
If she's not amass of welts and bumps
before she goes to bed,
they haven't done their job.
She sips wine just like in the old days
when her husband sat beside her.
She rocks her chair back and forth,
imposing calm on the world
despite chaos buzzing, seething, searing,
not three feet from her.
Another evening just like all the others:
memories as flaccid as her stomach,
alcohol that won't quite dull the senses,
creatures flapping flat against the screen.
They tell her these demons
are attracted by the light.
Strange because there hasn't been a light in years.

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