X: Poetry by John Grey & Photography by Natalia Drepina

The Soul of sullen river

Mad Annie’s Return

Late at night, I sleep in past paradise.
It’s always my youth, that kind of small town
where no one fears death.
and the maps in the school books
are familiar and colored by empire.
Nothing turns away.
Everyone spoken to must answer.
Even Annie, who normally runs for the hills
cannot help but stop and say,
“Yes, you are nine years old, I’m thirty one,
was left at the altar ten years ago. Since then
I’ve let my hair grow and my teeth rot.
And screaming at the ravens gives me pleasure.”

Bedded down, the world resembles well-worn streets,
familiar door-knobs, old men at windows
smoldering like their pipes.
There’s the first kid to ever crash his car.
And the place we got stranded.
And an uncle before dementia.
Some girls before camouflaged innocence.
Is that a police car whirring or some new-fangled toy?
And Annie explaining to me
how she too will someday miss
the children sneering at her,
the parents’ whispered warnings,
the folds of her face in the mirror,
the odd shenanigans of her heart and head.

Deep in years, a grandmother dies
in lavender not pain.
Rock and roll booms from the radio,
innocent and pure.
The neighbor’s fire is just a lamp in the window.
And Annie even swims in the river,
doesn’t drown one bit.
She emerges on the bank,
her lanky tresses dripping wet and declares,
“Screw this. I’m going to start my life over.”
It’s not a nightmare, it’s a dream.
There’s no foul body jerked out of the stream.
Just some dumb kids leaping into it.
The witch is not dead.
Or, at least, there’s no kids singing it.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions, and the war poetry anthology, No Achilles (Waterwood Press, 2015), with work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Gargoyle, Coal City Review and Nebo.

Natalia Drepina, born 1989, is a photographer, poet, and composer/videographer from Lipetsk, Russia. Her work has been previously exhibited in galleries across the Russian Federation, including in the interactive photography project “Perfumer,” and also within the European Union, at the MacS | Museo Arte Contemporanea Sicilia. A forthcoming exhibition in the EU, at the Animalia Art Expo in Diksmuide, Belgium is slated for this month, on April 22, 2016. Be there! Or, let Natalia’s photography grace your own walls by visiting Fine Art America, along with Natalia Drepina Prints.


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