Volume 3 Number 2


Spring 2005


John Grey

I'm stretched out on a filthy bunk.
My body feels thin and empty
as a yellowed sheet of old writing paper.
There's smoke everywhere,
sinister clouds like rancid breath,
like crippled, foggy words.
Still, there's the pipe in my mouth.
I'm floating in a sea of grime
and mist and muffled cough
and that long, thin bamboo spine
is a life-raft proffered to my trembling fingers.
Climb aboard, the siren flavor seems to say.
Can't save your arms and legs,
the rib bars of your sunken chest prison,
but we've a scented cabin for your head,
a bliss buffet, some sultry maidens
like long, curled fingernails with faces
to scratch and kiss your brain.

No, I'm in my own room.
It can't be a den
when the windows open wide,
sun sweeps the dark
from all these chambers.
And one glimpse in the mirror
can tell I'm not emaciated,
withered of flesh, frail of bone.
And I'm alone,
not head to head, feet to feet,
with a dozen drugged companions.
My brain is clear
and innocent of any toxins.
I'm once again the sum of my waking,
cool fresh water down my face.
Still, my mouth sucks on something,
on nothing, a reflex action,
residue of dream.
Suddenly, my body feels too ripe,
my mind waves too aligned with thinking.
I'm jealous of my shadow,
for its lack of content.
And I'm wary of it
for the unrelenting
quivering way it knows I'm here.

Illustration by Teresa Tunaley