John lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
© 2009 John Grey
TO THE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN
How does it feel to be
the object of relentless
and universal observation.
Wouldn't you rather
have your ugly moments
or, at least, some mediocre ones.
Aren't there times you wish
to escape the discerning,
the constant reaping of all eyes and thoughts.
Do you ever say,
"Just let me be myself,"
this place where audience ends and you begin.
Then I try to imagine a pristine lake
that longs to be swamp water,
a clear blue sky that dreams of cloud cover.
The best I can come up with
is a white tailed deer that wishes it was
a bull-frog when the hunters come.
The old man with the bent back
is still laying asphalt
but the young guys
are sprawled across the grassy median,
shirts off, shovels down,
toasting in the sun.
Who cares where tax dollars go
when there's brown muscle to loll,
chest hairs to flutter,
a cigarette in a sleepy mouth
and the lungs to deal with its poisons.
They figure let those near death
operate the machinery.
The years stretch out ahead of us.
So let's stretch out like years.
We're descended from the ocean, he says.
So this is more than just a stroll along the beach.
It's a family reunion.
That's not a tide-pool, that's a gene pool.
So who can explain the crab that crawls out of it,
darts across the sand?
I have to admit the water soothes with its coolness.
And, out farther, the glittering jewel box,
is more pleasing to the eye than mirrors.
But walking with a scientist has its downside.
Germ-plasma theory lies uneasily beside
bronze beauties on the beach.
But for a mile or two along the shore,
I can live with Darwin, Linnaeus and Lamarck
and their learned say in my family tree.
Sea air clears my head ceaselessly.
No laws of organic life stay for long.
Meanwhile, waves retreat, leave a wake of
to be pecked at by plovers.
So which of my ancestors
was food for what sea-bird?
I've no idea where we come from
but the sea's a good choice:
the surface calm, incessant rhythms underneath,
the foam at the edges,
even that crusty taste of salt.
Sure sometimes rough weather
takes this peace in hand
and riles it into
angry ten foot breakers, crazed riptides.
But I've no need to be here then.
I've already made those adaptations.
All work is property of John Grey.
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