John Grey

Young Girl Dragged from River

She was a stranger. I couldn’t have saved her.
Even the troubled ones that I know personally
are difficult to get through to.
They’re pressured by peers, by the world
that engulfs them.
There’s no going in like a one man rescue team
and pulling them to safety.
Or taking soap to their minds.
Or dressing them like nuns.
I can only do my best to be decent.
That doesn’t always work.

I wonder if that sorry victim was the result of
someone’s patience going unrewarded.
A sullen teenager who couldn’t put
her sullenness behind her.
I just saw her from a distance.
But I heard the chatter, saw the whirring cop lights,
nothing usable for understanding.

She was dragged from the river not far
downstream from the bridge.
That old rusty cantilever and the brimming current below
have been a deadly combination since before I was born.
The bridge towers high but it’s worthless
when it comes to lifting spirits.
To a defenseless state of mind, it offers only one direction

Face the color of china, they said. Hair straggly as seaweed.
Around here, off-hand descriptions travel fast.
I probed deeper, but within myself,
a narrow road that leads to helplessness.
Would the ones I knew meet the same fate as the one I didn’t?
Would my intervention be cure or curse?
Or, even worse, like an annoying fly to be brushed away?
They hauled that stranger away in an ambulance.
She’d be safe from my deliberations, guarded against my conclusions.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and failbetter.

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