fall 2018 / Poetry 2018 / volume 49

Ordinary History—John Grey

These neighborhood houses are marked
with historical plaques,

people and dates from the 19th century mostly,
ordinary folk whose homes have defied the years.

As a kid, the history I delved into
was mostly kings and battles, beheadings

and cavalry charges. There was nothing
about streets and sidewalks, doors and windows,

roofs slanted to defy the buildup of snow.
And those names and dates happened elsewhere.

An ordinary family doctor wasn’t responsible.
Nor was someone named Tobias. Or Nathaniel.

Rulers didn’t live in weathered colonials.
They didn’t paint their houses white.

Wars weren’t decided on the path I take
or the front yard where I stop to chat

or the creaky veranda where the old woman sits
day after day with her black cat and her knitting.

Yet maybe there’s really two histories.
The one in books, the one of who’s reading them.


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