In an Apartment on the South Side
No one strings a line across the alley,
hangs their washing.
Look up these days, and you'll never know
what others are wearing.
No white shirts fluttering
like flags of an impoverished country.
No well-worn under-things
shameless in the greasy wind.
Pigeons flit from roof to roof.
They're the evidence of people hereabouts.
All the colors of the rubbish dump,
they scour the ground for handouts.
They wouldn't be here
if there weren't people
with a hunk of bread left over.
But you couldn't tell it from the windows.
Shades are drawn
therefore families must be drawn.
No flowers in boxes.
Nobody knows what it's like to bloom.
There's an occasional noise
from the flat next door,
an argument, a toilet flushing,
but faces have better things to do
than show themselves to strangers.
Or they have worse things to do
and they keep it to themselves.
I was brought up on subtle,
the near invisible threads of feeling.
I was trained in nuance,
that almost opaque shift in tone.
Silence was explained to me
as virtue par excellence,
My face is schooled
in limited expression.
But a drive-by shooting
plugged a baby in a pram.
Some fat rich blue-collar criminal's
been sentenced to a year
in a prison country club.
A bomb from a drone
broke up a kids' birthday party.
It was explained to me
that these things happen to other people.
and I should keep my cool,
appreciate the fact
that I'm not somebody else.
Junkies are in jail
while movie stars take the cure
in pricey sanitariums.
Somehow gay is a sin
and corporate thievery's a blessing.
Children in Thailand can
do the work cheaper.
Thanks to my education,
I don't speak out.
For I've a background in muteness,
a degree in shoulder shrugging.
But, for just one moment,
could you please all turn away.
Point your attention elsewhere.
Pretends it's not me
who's breathing near your ear.
while I gently, quietly,
scream and scream the place down.
John Grey is an Australian born poet. His work was recently published in The Lyric, Vallum and the science fiction anthology, “The Kennedy Curse” and is upcoming in Bryant Literary Magazine, Natural Bridge, Southern California Review and the Oyez Review.