Happy National Poetry Month! For this issue of READ LOCAL First (the world’s premier archive of Utah-related writers), we introduce Gray Thomas from Salt Lake City, Utah. Thomas holds a BA in English from the University of Utah and a Masters in Strategic Communication from Westminster College.
His writing has appeared in Unshod Quills, Drunk In a Midnight Choir, enormous rooms, Button Poetry, and Write About Now (among other publications). His work is forthcoming in the Winter edition of Plainsong.
Two of his poems below, Birds and The Scent of Black Tea, were part of a collection (This Is How Astronomers Look At The Earth) that the SLCC Writing Center selected as part of their 30/30 contest in 2019.
Gray is known for crumpling paper into balls and throwing them behind him. The papers contain love notes or apologies. “I have fallen in love and apologized so often,” he says.
When she spoke
birds flew out of her mouth
and flew around the room.
At first it was beautiful.
We all thought it was
a party trick. A nightingale
Then a swallow.
Then a cockatoo.
After the 7th bird
the party became concerned.
to become a bluebird.
He focused on turning his hair
into feathers, turning his voice
into chirps, his feet into tiny claws.
He gave up his career
in finance. One day
someone asked him
he just pecked at their shoes.
When she spoke
she spoke only of him.
There’s nothing to it
you just eat a good meal beforehand
and that absorbs the shards in your belly
so the glass doesn’t cut up
the lining, but the risk is always there.
should be thin
so that you don’t
wear down your
The glasseater does not recommend
the fine china. Nor does he recommend glass figurines
his mother once owned.
The glasseater recommends that you avoid
his father’s coffee mugs as well.
The glasseater has several other
items you could consume.
By all means.
The glasseater has the vase from 10 years ago.
His grandmother’s porcelain duck. She passed away a while ago,
so he assumes that it’s fine to eat.
There’s the glass coffee table
that his ex left him.
The top is edible.
He doesn’t know what to do with the wooden legs.
The glasseater ate the salt and pepper shakers.
He didn’t mean to.
He was seasoning his plate of freshly prepared glass shards
and got confused.
Now he just keeps a pile of salt and pepper
on the center of the table.
Needless to say, the glasseater doesn’t have any windows.
The glasseater can throw all the rocks he wants.
Show, Don’t Tell
tell me about how you are inexplicable.
I want to see how
the worker’s fingers are calloused in the
joints where he holds a hard
handle of a hammer, banging away against a bench
or a wall. How it soothes his joints when
he grasps his wife’s soft.
Show me heavy.
Don’t tell me the worker is lonely.
I want to hear about the laborer’s fingers
falling off after swinging the hammer
against a wall for reasons
he is unsure of and now
he has no finger to wipe away his
But when you show me I want
to want more.
I want to like it, but not know why,
like the taste of metal,
or the feel of glass medicine bottles.
Wives cry all the time when their
husband is a worker
who is missing his fingers,
so crying wives aren’t enough.
but long for the ridges of fingerprints.
which is why she is fucking the foreman.
(Something something about the foreman’s wife,
but now we’re getting out of hand.)
(Now you’re showing me too much.)
(No pun intended.)
Let’s just focus on the foreman.
This is also a labor. To push
another man inside you while
remembering the color of husband’s eyes.
This is also a form weeping.
I want to see it!”
the worker yells.
“Don’t just tell me.
while grinding out his eyes with a hammer.
“I want to see it. I want to.”
The Scent of Black Tea
When Jason came back
from the war over there,
he was exactly the same
as when he left,
only a gut full of desert
that he couldn’t digest
and a hot sun that wouldn’t
leave his brain.
As the days became tomorrows,
he kept being Jason
but one night at the bar,
I asked him what he remembered.
“Nothing,” he told me,
but the way the whisky slid
down his throat
I could see someone
burning in his eyes.
He told the police
it was the scent
of black tea brewing
that made the holes in the wall,
that ripped the carpet from the floorboards,
that set off his service pistol,
that made his wife
remove all the glowinthedark stars
from the ceiling
of their son’s bedroom.
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