The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Mark R. Gray



You don’t know anything about this any more than I do,
this boy, middle sixties, low seventies I.Q., and hardly able
to hold down a make work job clearing tables, not when
something wakes and breaks him loose from stupor and
pushes him to push himself to push the polish rag
harder and deeper into the dark wood, not caring how
much elbow grease his spirit spends to find itself
sitting in the sunlit center of the gloss beneath the gloss,
and bring it forth into the brilliance of a surface
that engulfs him, stops time, and leaves him radiant
to stare into the gleam he’s made.

This is where all comparison, all measurement ends,
all differences dismissed, and all the arrogance
that sets us one above another, all the machinery
of self-protection, defensive posturing, and begins
our search to reach out and find all the ways to accommodate
all the different miracles of being human.



Mark R. Gray



He’d been around before I became a regular shopper here.
He’s a heavy smoker, has to duck out twice an hour.
No argument, the guy is sly – the way he disappears out the back door,
hides around the blind side of a corner. One of the girls behind
the counter says he takes a five-finger discount on cigarettes,
taps the register for pocket money. She says he’s been there
ever since she can remember.

                                                    He must be pushing seventy,
too poor to retire, always half a paycheck away from homelessness.
He probably won’t last much longer, die from emphysema or lung cancer,
but at least he shows up every day, drunk or sober. She says he’s still
good for a few laughs, but I say may he sneak away on his own terms,
continue to just squeak by, give management the slip forever.




MARK R. GRAY is a retired high school teacher and lives with his wife in Seattle. This is his first publication in forty years.



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