on the page magazine
issue no. 12 summer/fall 2005
shared spaces


All Hell at 55

by John Grey

One child sparring at air,
another executing rough aerobics
with flailing arms and legs
or two demons grappling with each other
in a back seat black vinyl ring
through a thousand loudly contested rounds
or eager young things skimming
the gist of every billboard,
reciting them back to a harried world
in ear-gouging voices,
and my wife and I jarring
back and forth between argument and prayer,
each mile without murder
further testament to what really binds us
as we cruise one more dull highway
across wheat fields or endless cornstalks
or grazing land fitted out
uninspiredly with the same ten cows,
realizing that to get somewhere
you have to be somewhere,
two adults, two children
squeezing a lifetime of anguish
into the narrow prison
of a late model mid-sized Japanese car
with power steering and automatic transmission,
surviving like alley dogs
despite the nails of closeness
raking down blackboards of our sanity,
far away from all the sanctuaries
that restore us to ourselves,
an American family,
stripped to its worst,
earning the right to get
where it's going to.

John Grey is a poet, playwright, and musician. His latest book, What Else Is There, was published by Main Street Rag.

Ed. note: this poem first appeared in our autumn 2002 issue.

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