Saturday 27 March 2021

Four Poems by John Grey




I've waved to people port side.
as their cruise ship pulled away from dock,
a seven day round trip,
but a journey to the ends of the earth
in my overripe mind.

And I've seen them run down the beach,
splash in the water,
until they're weary of salt on the tongue,
in their eyes,
but I have them slipping below the surface,
moving into a great underground city
and living out their lives there.

Every airplane goodbye is a rocket trip to Mars.
I hang up the phone
and the person on the other end
time travels fifty years into the past.
The number of people I will never see again
is staggering.
Every conversation is with
another's jet stream. Or their gravestone.

It's a strange world.
All its spinning, its orbiting,
invested in my solitude.
People live on it
just to say they used to know me.



I took a thousand different forms.

Sometimes at the flick of a hand.

But mostly with a thought

or a phrase

in the right ear – my own.

There were moments

I was as deep as I have ever been.

Other times, I was content

to merely bristle on the surface.

I departed from the norm.

I stepped outside the circle.

I even treated reality

to a taste of its own realism.

Some of the shapes I assumed were splendid.

Others looked down-at-heel.

There were muddled ones

and muddied ones,

clear and precise

or as bewildering as a two-headed dog.

Or a two-headed me,

I took a stab at a little nobility

and bled for my troubles.

I was nothing but emotions.

I was as hard as brick.

I had such faith in simplicity

until tangled webs seemed a better fit.

How often I cut against the grain

just so, a minute later,

I could go with the flow.

I thought enough of myself

to sing my own praises.

But then I took my pride

down more notches

than there are on a gunslinger’s  

rifle barrel.

There were my subtle days,

my polished nights,

to go with sparklingly obvious

and rough and raw

as a sailor on the grog.

Yes, I was so different

from when I was different the last time

that I never knew how different

I’d be next.




With thin uneasy hands

I sought an analogy

between contours that defined

a woman physically

and the conversation

in which she opened up

about being teased in school

for wearing braces

and having an unhealthy

regard for Twizzlers.


I sought the seam

where lateral and vertical definition

joined with content,

self-respect and overall goodness.


I found instead a scar

from a stomach operation.

She didn’t share the details.





I don’t know how I angered so many neighbors,

just because I fed the sparrow from my hand.

To them it’s like some kind of miscegenation

when that small warm weight nibbles from my palm.


There’s this distinct anti-John-Grey mood.

Its symbol is a tiny songbird in a circle with a line drawn through.

Its secret sign is an ugly look from a kitchen window.

Meanwhile, my little brown bird is appreciative,


delights in its sweet music, unaware of

a back jagged with daggers, so many scorching stares.

He feeds. He trills his quiet contentment.

A flutter of feather. The cock of a grateful eye.


I alone know where beauty gets it from.



John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.

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