Red, not gray

( is that knife...)

I do not know what has happened to us.

It is too much to speak of.
It is worse than you think.

It is always worse.



I have it for you,
right here in my hand.

It lies—
giving its last for you,
giving it up.

Isn't that enough?


Two objects in space
meet, collide and fall 


Any and every 
direction is down.

All we can do is 



Take it!

Was that too loud for you?
Did it hurt your ears? 
Did you get some on your face?

you can feel it. 

It is still warm.
It is still young
at its core, 

at the very center
of so long ago.


Beneath the crust,
the mantle 
is heat.
Lead cauldron.
Furnace gold.

More often 
some baser substance
like dirt


Go ahead.
Touch it.
Feel its slick muscle,
its waning strength.

It is all the blinding colors of the eye
that you will not see.
They are not fading.
They are slowly burning for you.

If you listen closely,
you can feel them running
down your face.


Grab a handful. 
Watch it fall to earth.

You will never know 
which way the wind blows, 
see it shade to light
until it is gone.

All you have left 
is the feeling of dust
on your hands.


If there is darkness, 
it is absence.

If there is light, 
it is presence.

Either way it pulls out the center of you. 
Like the windlass to the bowels of St. Erasmus,
it pulls the inside out of you.

Go ahead,
close your eyes and feel the colors of it
squirming out of you.

Can you taste them,
rolling like iron 
on your tongue?


The roads are laid out 
with a precise machinery
that clicks and hums
about its business,

doing only what we tell it 
and everything that we fear.

These things are out of our hands now.
The sacrifice has been made.
The moon is already 
too full for us.


It won't be long now.
Soon, they will come for me.
They will put their fingers on my neck. 
They will see if there is anything that they can do.
They will decide that there is not.
They will make their pronouncements.
They will talk of how they knew that it would be this way
and how they had to try, none the less.


A job has no blood in it.
It is a calculation.

It is the job of a job to calculate

the balance
in the hand 
of the blind.

The operators 
have all gone home.


It is almost over now.


Soon it will not matter 
if you can 
or cannot see 
all the shades 
that oxidize in air.



Please take
what I have given.

It is never

Now leave.

21 thoughts on “Red, not gray

  1. I am worried, John, I understood this too well on the first read-through – the incredulity that the heart I offered to my job was not enough, was not even relevant; or that the relationship I swam in was an ocean and I was just flotsam (and I thought I swam pretty well); please give me a slap and tell me to pull myself together, man, that I’m reading way too much into it (I’m willing to be completely embarassed over this); if not, here, have my heart too

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not to worry, my friend.
      Giver becomes given.
      River becomes riven
      and we all float on
      down stream. We
      are not “just” flotsam.
      We are Glorious Flotsam!
      No hearts need change
      hands, but change hearts
      we must. They change
      wether we will or no.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Right as rain
      and rain is always
      what it is.

      Thank you–sometimes, when you open the spigot, you have no control over what comes out. And trust me, I think I’ll be figuring out what this one is telling me for quite some time.


  2. “These things are out of our hands now.
    The sacrifice has been made.
    The moon is already
    too full for us.”

    And what a sharp knife it is 😉 You cut to the heart of the matter, Johnny. Brilliantly done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on ALICEVILLE and commented:
    There was nothing I could write today that would be better than what my friend Johnny has written here. It’s gory. It’s intense. And it’s very very real.

    Thanks for reading.


  4. Okay. I had to come back and read this again. And again. And then I found that there was nothing that I could say or paint or write that could come anywhere close to this. So I re-blogged this for my post today.

    It’s VERY VERY good.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. What can I say, John, except well done and this has your voice written all over it. You definitely should submit this various places if you haven’t begun that process already. (Or if that is what you want to do.)

    Like others are saying, this cuts very deep and makes me very uneasy (which is why I think it is so good).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Jeremy. That means so much coming from you.
      I have actually been thinking more and more lately that I should submit something to the Blue Hour again. Your recent post was another reminder for me.
      Perhaps it should be this one that I submit.
      I am still, as ever, struggling with the desire to “publish” while also feeling like putting stuff on my blog is how I get really the only feedback that I currently have access to. I have no “poet-friends” outside of the WP community. I would love to find like-minded folks here in the STL area to discuss/share with, but I have so few minutes to spare and choose to spend them writing and reading what I can.
      But I am feeling the itch. I really feel like I am coming to a new place in my writing. Like I am coming to a deeper understanding of letting the poem speak for itself. I feel like I have a lot of potential energy that wants to find its way into words, but I also find myself extremely frustrated a lot of the time for the lack of time that I have to devote to writing/studying poems.
      I was just discussing this a bit with Natalie in her recent post–which I Highly recommend:

      She is a young lady of remarkable poetic power. I can’t wait to see what all she has yet to share with the world.

      Thanks as always for your words and support.
      And I really would love to get back to that book idea… some point.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have not forgotten about our book idea. . . believe me. I think about it and remain committed.

        I will check out Natalie’s post indeed. I like her work and have been meaning to go back and read more.

        I think you are a very talented poet. I think I told you how much your poem about the Boston Marathon bombing meant to my father when he read it (he lived there back in the 1960s).

        I think the poem would be a great addition to The Blue Hour but I also think that there are many magazines on Duotrope that would be interested in your work. You definitely have my enthusiastic support. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks so much Jeremy. Your support means the world to me. I am touched that you father thought highly of my poem.
          I am putting together a few poems (including this one) to submit to the Blue Hour. I will look into Duotrope further when time permits.

          And hopefully I will have more time in the next year or so to devote to the book idea and some other publishing/submission ideas.

          I look forward to working together and sincerely appreciate your patience in that regard.

          Owning a restaurant is kind of a combination of having another child while at the same time being subjected to textbook torture techniques. Lots of sleep deprivation combined with completely unpredictable periods of sheer madness. If I survive the next few months, it will hopefully mean that our business has grown enough that we can take a few steps back.


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