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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 19 page 20



by John Grey

Like peanut shells,
like soldiers shot in battle,
once read, the book dropped to the floor,
stayed there.

His shelves were full.
More than full.
And coffee stains were everywhere.
On desk. On chair. On floor.
And, like mixed marriages,
beside each Java blemish
was a cigarette burn.

He ate like he wrote,
feverishly then nothing for days.
He loved the same way.
His conquests were as legendary
as they were fleeting.

An article by him appeared here,
there, in magazines with circulations
like a dying man’s.
Some were political.
Some lambasted language poetry.
A few praised it.
The money came from an indulgent parent
in Boulder City
and occasional jobs washing dishes
or dealing weed.

People gathered in his small ratty apartment,
talked and drank and smoked until sunrise.
A post-punk mix-tape boomed in the background.
I could go on and on,
not once mentioning the fact that he’s dead now.
There’s his abstract cooking to cover.
And his poetry to drag out of his
battered backpack and read.
And the rambling letters he wrote,
then hand-delivered because
he didn’t trust the post office.
That’s the way it is with some people.
Their lives are just too rich
for the poverty of cancer.
There’s too many details
to be slighted by one word,
even if it’s a killer.

He loved watching Russian movies, without subtitles,
peasants and soldiers and endless steppes,
though he never spoke nor understood the language.
But try telling that to a melanoma.
I know I can’t.