Poetry by Jennifer Gray

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Read More: A brief interview with Jennifer Gray

Ward of the State

The boy is maybe twelve,
small for his age, and he looks
for a long moment
at the group home
before bending to grip the black
plastic bag between his feet.
He follows a man he’s just met
up the porch steps. The house
is weekday quiet. A Christmas tree
blinks in one of the windows.

Up the stairs, a woman shows him
to his room, points to the bed
that will be his. He places
his bag there, and slowly folds his clothes
into the drawers she shows him.

When she has gone,
he looks around the room.
Two swaybacked single beds,
two dressers, two desks.
Faded curtains at the window.
The grainy shadows of dusk sifting up
from the corners of the room.

He sees the van return,
pull up to the curb. He counts
eleven boys, some heads down, some
sullen, some laughing, clowning around.
His knuckles are white on his fists. Now
he hears the sound of them coming up the stairs.

 

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Coyote

Midwinter, the coyote
carries hunger in his legs,
shingled with burrs,
with mud-matted fur,

in his tracks
that cross
and cross again
old snow, the frozen creek,

hunger in the way
he prowls the banks.
He sniffs, intent,
at the silent dam.

For now, he fills the empty
sack of his belly
with the tangled scents
of dark, of must, and dung.

The wind whines
over the creek. The rest
is silence, attention […]


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November Burial, Ralls Texas

Only a few of us stay in the wind to watch
the men turn the winch and lower the coffin
into the grave. The Mack truck waits
off to the side with its load of dirt.

At the edge of the cemetery, cotton fields begin,
the brown stems bristle in obedient rows.
Farmers are stripping cotton for miles around.
Wandering boles settle the roadsides, roam
white among the gravestones.

We are quiet as the crew disassembles
the clanging metal frame, placing its parts
aside on the dry grass. Someone tells how […]


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Jennifer Gray has an MA in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she was a reader for Prairie Schooner. She has received a Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship, and a Gaffney/Academy of American Poets prize. Ted Kooser selected her poems Horses and Summer Mowing to appear in his weekly column American Life in Poetry. Other poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Lindenwood Review, Plainsongs, Embers and Flames—an anthology, and The Lincoln Underground. She has taught English at York College in Nebraska.

Read More: A brief interview with Jennifer Gray