The lighthouse is automated now.
Its pulsar flash requires no human intervention.
It's no longer a shrine to the loneliness of man.
The rocks are still as venomous as ever.
The ones you can see slap waves
back where they came from.
Those below the surface
count the notches on their mossy sheen.
But it's years since unexpected storms rose up
and ships were trapped between the swells,
buffeted and swallowed, broken up like twigs.
Those desperate crews man decks in paintings
down at the maritime museum.
The lighthouse keeper and his family
sit down to dinner by candle flame
in an old framed sepia photograph.
Ships know where the channels run.
The weather is as plotted as a graph.
The light, these days,
is less a warning than a confirmation.
Route is as planned, conditions as expected.
The obvious shines with computerized delight.
She never left the house
looking anything but her best.
But she dreamed of dressing
like a slob.
People kept telling her
how good she had it.
That made rock-bottom sound appealing.
Everything was as she saw it.
She hadn't once had the pleasure
And that was her face in the mirror.
The reflection looked so intimidatingly sane.
More's the pity, she thought.
She had no addictions,
that was her trouble.
She was always in control.
But where's the depth in that?
She promised herself
that one day she'd take up drinking
or go cruising in search
of her very own pot dealer.
She'd lived a life of involuntary R & R
with a little housework on the side.
Had a husband and children
and brothers and sisters
who so tightly kept her upright
that they squeezed her into nothingness.
She couldn't wait to fall,
to shoo away all those would-be healers.
For years, she'd undergone the cure.
The time for the sickness was approaching.
DUSTING THE MANTLE
Thanks for the tiny
replica of the Eiffel Tower
you brought back to me
from your Paris excursion.
It doesn't remind me
of the Champs Elysees
or the Louvre
or even Jim Morrison's grave.
No, its silver sheen,
curved sides, sturdy base,
is definitely you.
It's always the same.
Whenever you go someplace,
your return is the true souvenir,
not the chopsticks from the Hong Kong restaurant,
not the grains of sand from Waikiki Beach.
Really, if I could place you,
with your overstuffed suitcases,
your bags of gifts,
on the mantle, I would.
But instead I put this tiny replica
of Gustave Eifel's masterwork
between the Maori Tiki and the Swiss Chalet.
Then I brush the dust
from how much I've missed you.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and Roanoke Review.