Wild Geese, poems by Jack Grady
American-born Jack Grady, a war veteran and a former winner of the Worcester County (Massachusetts) Poetry Contest, is a founder member of the Ox Mountain Poets, based in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland. He considers himself to be a sort of Rip Van Winkle of poets in the sense that he returned to writing poetry in 2014 after a ‘long sleep’, that is, a hiatus of many years, many of which were passed working in the Middle East. Since then, his poetry has been widely published. His work has appeared in Live Encounters; Crannóg; Poet Lore; A New Ulster; The Worcester Review; North West Words; Mauvaise Graine; Outburst Magazine; The Runt; The Galway Review (online); Algebra of Owls; The Irish Literary Times; Skylight 47, and in the anthologies And Agamemnon Dead: An Anthology of Twenty First Century Irish Poetry; A New Ulster’s Voices for Peace; Poetry Anthology Centenary Voices April 2016; 21 Poems, 21 Reasons for Choosing Jeremy Corbyn; and A New Ulster’s Poetry Day Ireland Anthology 2017. In April 2016, he read in Morocco at the 3rd annual Festival International Poésie Marrakech, as the poet invited by its committee to represent Ireland.
After Mary Oliver
No longer must we try to be good
and no longer is there need to fear
There are deserts still
but no saint or hermit repents there
There are no Forty Days in the Wilderness
There are no Forty Nights of Rain
There are only flatlands of silence
and a wasteland of glass and sand
No longer do wild geese fly
home in a clean, blue sky
No longer is the sky clean
No longer is it blue
No longer is there home for the wild geese to fly to
No longer are there missiles in the sky
nor are there leaves to fall or trees to die
or even one gull left to glide in the wind
Whoever you were
and if you were lonely
you no longer are
and you are no longer
lonely. You are one with what once
were mountains and streams
You are one with the world’s
family of things
You are one with the wild geese
that faced the first bomb
You are one with glass
blown by the storm
Ouroboros in a Drinking Glass
The Ouroboros, the snake that eats his own tail
…slays himself…fertilizes himself and gives birth
to himself…. – Carl Gustav Jung
Sunlight slants through the train’s window,
impregnates my empty glass,
and gestates a face in one of its facets.
Poet? Hobo? Mountain man?
Perhaps a barber, the way shadows
clip and trim the beard closer now –
not like mine, a grey tangle of vines
reaching for the sky to spite me
for the precision I pretend in shaving it.
No, this beard in the perfectly dimensioned square
is finely hewn, tapered and spruce.
The train changes direction, the sun shifts,
or perhaps I move back to rest against the seat;
for the beard is gone, and I am presented instead
with the face of Stephen Hawking,
angled down in thoughts too deep for me to sound.
Then, I am confronted by a skull, but no!
It is the head cupped with hands
in Munch’s eternal Scream
or the mouth of a black molly
as she consumes the offspring
from the ejaculation of her womb.
We enter a tunnel.
The glass facet is again lifeless.
It awaits re-insemination,
death and transformation,
with rebirth of the train
Albinoni in Jive
She was plump, she was black,
and she danced to Albinoni,
to the allegro of a concerto I no longer recall,
but she danced in Al-Khobar,
the Gulf War was over,
the year 91 or 2.
Her desert fatigues
they called chocolate chip
proclaimed she belonged
to America’s army –
her back straight,
her salute brisk and stiff.
But, when she danced in the music shop,
when she danced to Albinoni,
she moved like no one
had ever moved to Albinoni –
nearly without friction,
as if the floor were ocean
and her feet and hips
were shoaling fish,
then schooling, then weaving,
then shoaling again.
But, in the air,
neck, shoulders, and head were moving, too,
like gulls soaring, then winging,
dancing backwards to the rhythm
of some forgotten
yet indelible African wind.
How muscle could move all her bones like that,
her bones had to be made of soft rubber.
How her bursae didn’t burst,
how her ligaments didn’t snap
as they surpassed elastic limits;
how parts of her body
could move with such ease
in mutually exclusive directions
and still hold together
and stay afloat as she danced,
I could not fathom.
It was I, not she,
who asked them to play that concerto;
but, even if never
had she heard it before,
she knew it better than I.
I could not imagine a human being
could be so attuned as she was
to the beat and more,
to every nuance and rhythmic aside.
Neither Albinoni nor baroque music
had ever been so alive
to me before, to me now,
or even to Albinoni in his own time.
Somehow the spirit
of that Venetian had travelled
through three centuries
to spark a soul-sister’s jive
and find a new home
in an Arabian stand-in
or for Chicago’s south side.
The Medusa of Al-Khobar
Megaphones bleat on the minarets
while sales assistants from Bangladesh,
hamstrung and distressed,
try their best to shepherd Saudi men
in white thobes out of souks and shops.
Unoiled grilles and folding gates,
rolling shut from the Corniche
to King Khalid Street,
squeal like those beasts the Prophet’s Book
proscribes as unclean.
It is sunset and the summons
to pray in the mosque,
but a sinful man stays on a footpath
and dares to watch
a flame-haired Irish woman
while she window-shops.
A dress of scarlet asserts her frame,
and his eyes take aim at Eden’s fruit
as he sniffs her fragrance
of jasmine and oud.
At last, he cannot resist,
tries to pick,
but turns to stone
when she pivots with a hiss,
her head full of snakes
and the cracking of whips
© Jack Grady