“From Your Lover in the Middle East” by John Grey

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee
2020 Best of the Net Nominee

I’m off to the hardware store
by way of Iraq and Syria,
then the dentist, in the family car
(okay so make that a jeep)
a hit-out at the local racquetball club
or a harrowing mission to the war zone.

I haven’t seen you in two months,
since the hot tub,
your nakedness supreme,
and greeting you with the word “Peace.”

The women I see on my travels
may be mysterious
but they’re fully clothed,
and just a little stiff.
and not forgetting their neglected smiles.

As for their hips –
I have a flag like that.
And their hair doesn’t pour.
I could easily thumbtack it to
the wall of my barracks.
You illuminate my dreams.
Their awkward, reticent bearing
wouldn’t make it through my first snore.

I wear a combat helmet.
I drive to the museum
where someone’s labored over what
they earnestly believed was beauty.
But, praying for flesh, they were stuck with sand.
The sculptors are either dead or in their dotage,
tribal elders, whose tribe has been
stolen out from under them.

That’s me piloting that blunt-nosed fighter.
Or watching the young woman drop her packages.
But I can’t help her.
Those boxes could be bombs.
And I’m working on the kind of chest
where majors could pin medals.
And I’m looking ahead to a day
like the one I’m looking back on.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in: That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly, with work upcoming in: Qwerty, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review, and failbetter.

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