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John Grey

These Dead Trees


Some dead trees fall across the path.

Either we scramble over, walk around,

or saw right through them.

Others tumble over the creek, ravine,

form bridges, ease the crossing.

The dead, in the restlessness of their waning,

are still up for one final gesture.

They slant against the living,

play at being trees still.

They topple in deep forest,

their final weathered leafless crash,

an unheard coda to the unexamined life.

Ants devour them slowly.

Snakes slither into the comfort

of their fractured hearts.

A groundhog burrows where

the wood is softest,

spends winter

in the winter of another.

A Trip Back Home

My first morning home,  

the sky’s as wide

as the ocean I crossed to get here.

Crows caw from eucalyptus trees.

Their magpie cousins dart between

the glints of dew on the grass.


My mother in the kitchen,

prepares her first full breakfast in three years,

her weathered face

glinting here and there with sunlight

like the twinkles of a dying sparkler.


This place seems as if its been here forever,

as if the history of the walls, the floors, demands it.

Not just the fancy chateaus, the mansions, must survive

but the small three-bedroom, one bath, 

wood-and-fibro War Service houses

that line both sides of the street  

in the order I remember them.


I slept in my old bed,

woke to kookaburra laugh, cockatoo shriek -

the sounds had been waiting for my return.


And now I sit up at the table,

devour fried eggs,

buttered toast,

pineapple juice.

It doesn’t take much

to turn me back into a son.

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