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Poems By John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Big Muddy and Sanskrit with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Owen Wister Review and Louisiana Literature.   


She won't deny
she's got a cigarette going
some place in the House,
she's got a man
waiting somewhere
in the city...
he glares at her...
silence can't turn to stone
quick enough...
she's weary of that
slow dance in bed, she says,
his tired waltz,
her unfulfilled music...
he begs her to stick around
figures those that remain alone,
go mad and search about
the rooms like they're the past,
like somehow they can Hear once more.,
the truth might even sustain them...
they hear it in their heads as song,
like the flutter of the curtains,
the tinkle of ice as she stirs her third gin,
upstairs, an only child,
too young to belong to herself alone,
still awaits the word from solitude...
she won't deny
it’s some place in that house.


For a Tree, you were the sobbing kind,
lowering your branches at my sister's mournful aria,
shedding leaves for the stale half loaf of bread

broken up, spread among the starving finches.
You didn't let up even when night closed over
and people inside houses went about their business

in dressing gowns, like voles, digging themselves
a path toward sleep. The wind would have driven
you to tears if you weren't already mere.

Likewise the Rain, that incessant summarizer
of all the tragedies you've seen over the years.
You were a funeral tree, a baseball spilling

through young fingers tree, even a robin baby
splattered on the driveway tree, a forty foot
tall empathy in wood and chlorophyll

with enough regrets, enough pain, enough spilled
twigs, sap-riddled bark, dropped fruit, for all of us.
As a boy, I climbed into your upper limbs.

As a man, I crawl down into your shadow.


The sun is determined to cook my skin.
Dirt and sand under my fingernails...
a little of the Earth, at least, wants to be seen with me.
My brother flexes muscles at the far end of the beach.
He's tall and blonde, the way the ocean makes them.
I'm just the useless boy, thin and unnecessary.
The bullies need not bother with my 98 pounds.
The sea-wind slaps my face enough.
My brother has a job, has a girl,
has a brand-new fiberglass board.
I have a poem itching to get out
and an overarching fear of water parks,
especially the one that curls high above my head,
corkscrewing kids from heights I can't even imagine,
into a splash pool where they survive
but I'd drown,
Why bring me to this hot place?
My parents preempt Love for torture.
For my mind has pale skin and freckles easily.
The nights haven't invented Goth yet.
They haven't made it possible for those my age,
my attitudes, to wander dark streets, to accumulate in black,
to take on the sins of the world and not its tan lines,
to adopt those transgressions into a waiting art-form.
The waves have no use for vampires in waiting.
They tickle my feet when I'd rather they go for my throat.


Oak tree cried out to me for help
but what could I do about it,
I was a sick boy
with barely breath enough
to make a lung shudder.

And wind wondered if
I was on its side
but I was always
sheltered by window and walls,
reading half my life away,
and spending the other half
under headphones,
listening to what God had to say
through his musicians.

The sun couldn't get through to me.
The possum on the roof
was dumbfounded
that I didn't come out for conversation.
But I was watching TV.
I was eating breakfast.
I was thumbing through the newspaper
to see what was happening on the outside,
so many excuses there, in black and white,
for why I shouldn't participate.

The earth wants me tramping its field
or plucking its roses.
What’s the problem?
My carpet's not good enough?
It insists I should breathe in
the cool clear .air
but I get by just fine
on this third hand stuff.
Sure, my skin is pale
but it's not complaining.
And my eyes are dulled
but I can see what I'm doing.
I live indoors.
Sorry, that's not where the world is.
The birds said it best
except I didn't hear them.


I wasn't trying to eavesdrop
but what can you do,
the tables so close,
and some couples louder
than us,
who never stop talking,
while we have such silences.
It's that vacuum theory again,
the sucking state we make
when we settle back
in our chairs,
look here, there, anywhere
but at each either.
As our lives shrink,
theirs are on the march,
expansive, imperialist,
soon stake their flag in mine.
Suddenly, I feel her complaining, his anger.
And when bitterness turns to sorrow,
to apology, to smiles,
I'm right there with them.
Sure I tell you I love you.
But he loves her is what I'm really saying.


Dostoevsky and rain every morning this week
intellect and mud
umbrella except
the house of the dead
has a few dry spots outside
the battle-fire of weather
the old drops rust drainpipes.
the younger ones stone butterflies
to keep the soul hell-ward. They splat and kick
and cuss like dreams
the old roulette-obsessed Russians asks
isn't weeping as even as rain
as dust from the earth wallows
in its new depths, new toughness
someone says a little rain is a good thing
a little rain
that reads to us
from the book of rain



To the one who only owns a Couch,
who imagined herself out there
somewhere, in sad camouflage,
drowning in a field of her mother's prize tomatoes,
who, if she had children,
someone else would get custody,
whose wedding ring would glimmer
from the third shelf of a pawn shop window,
who if you mentioned "good life",
would sneer good-natured as a gulp of whiskey,
who dragged that couch from one apartment
to the next, a ball and chain hacking
into her ankle that she saw as an over-stuffed child,
to pat its wooden flanks and imagine the factory
sweat that made it happen, on her part,
on the part of someone unknown,
who watched a favorite sister die of cancer,
who was an artist for a month,
more paint on her than on
the canvas, was content with that, even
spilled a little on that ubiquitous couch,
who'd sit cross-legged on the floor
and watch it occupy most of her small flat,
like seeing a sailboat at anchor in the
harbor, proud to be in its cramped space,
smug with ocean stories, who sat on
it with a man, with a children's book,
with a needle, who could shovel whatever
was available into her arm some nights
but not this thing that made her comfortable,
that rose up all around her like a letter
from home, whose habits sprouted parallel
journeys, one toying with her brain, the
other making everything, even the present,
seem like a memory, whose veins got so
lazy one time, they refused to budge,
who dropped her rusty weapon on the floor,
kicked it underneath that couch with her
last effort, who flopped down on its softness,
squeezed her knees up into her chest,
the last invitation one part of her body
would proffer to another, who was carried
down those creaky stairs, one August night,
followed by her couch.

This post first appeared on Zombie Logic Review: Poetry For Outsiders And Outl, please read the originial post: here

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Poems By John Grey


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