On No Mission by John Grey

The television flickers. The ballgame comes in and out.
The players have rippling faces. The outfield is fuzzy.
Old men sit around on rickety chairs shout at the screen.
They curse the umpire’s call, they cuss the clueless
swing of the bat, and they spit oaths at the reception.

It’s the common room of a shabby hotel in the Mission district.
All live in dirty-white wallpapered rooms. Three floors,
each with one bathroom. Pensions pay them to smoke and cough,
boil soup on tiny oil-stoves, eat at the diner, drink at the bar.
Sometimes they argue, even come to blows, though wild
swings tear the shoulder, swat the air, more often than
make contact. They figure people aren’t supposed
to live like this. But they know the city. They’ve seen worse.

They play poker with matchsticks, line up at the
free clinic on Thursdays. They talk up what they did
in the military but never mention family.
Their minds flicker. Thoughts come in and out.
In the TV light, their faces ripple. Their bodies are fuzzy.
If they could see themselves, they’d shout
at what’s going down at field level.
They’d curse the wrinkled cheeks. They’d cuss the dead eyes.
A guy could drown in the oaths they’d spit.


John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in International Poetry Review, Sanskrit and the science fiction anthology, “Futuredaze” with work upcoming in Clackamas Literary Review, New Orphic Review and Nerve Cowboy.