John Grey

John Grey

At high school, a car always came for the rich kid.
And girls flocked around him
though he really wasn’t that good looking.
He always dressed better than the rest of us.
And he had a wallet.
Whenever a dollar or two came my way,
I stuffed it down my pocket.

One day, the rich kid offered me a ride.
But I was too embarrassed
to tell his driver where I lived.
I just said, “My mother’s coming for me”
though our family didn’t own a car
and then, when that Caddy was out of sight,
I began my long walk home.

Every step I took made me that much poorer.
By the time I reached home, my legs were tired
and I owed just about everybody.



John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. He has been recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and the anthology, No Achilles, with work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Gargoyle, Coal City Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.

John Grey

Her eyes are descended from stars.
No, they’re earthier than that.
They’re the seeds spat out from grapes.
But more romantic.
Like Christmas baubles hung in trees.
But not as artificial.
Not as commercial.
Like those same baubles
re-imagined as fruit.
The juiciest compote on the planet.
But I don’t want to eat them.
So make that luscious looking but inedible.
But not poisonous.
That’s all wrong.
Fruit is fruit
It lacks expression.
So her eyes are dancers.
But not sore-footed.
And not sweaty.
But choreograph}’ is always
someone’s else’s art.
Her eyes need to be something revealing.
Like a woman who bares all
but using nakedness as a mere starting point.
And steered away from lust
Something ethereal.
Like stars.
That’s it.
Her eyes give birth to stars.

– John Grey

Now the rain is endless
and the shooting outside won’t stop.
Or is that the thunder?
Was there an assassination involved?
Did an anarchist blow away an arch-duke?
Or is it nothing more than a river overflowing
and the lowlanders leaving their homes
and possessions behind
to huddle here with the rest of the unfortunate? 

I often dream of people in a gym,
row after row of beds on the parquet floor,
the stands pushed back to allow for more,
some sleepless ones looking directly up
at the baskets,
a few small kids blanketed,
laid out on rows of seats. 

Maybe the army will come for them here anyhow.
Or the floodwaters will creep up so high
that no place is safe.
Or lightning will strike,
raze building and inmates.
Or they’ll all go mad,
turn on themselves. 

Whatever it is,
they’re bedded down together
like I’m bedded down
with my inoperable imagination.
We’re all refugees,
they from what threatens.
I, from a world making sense.
We’re all waiting
to go back where we belong,
or some place new that will have us.
Any minute now,
someone in charge will give us the word.
Or, if there’s no one in charge,
then someone will wake me.

John Grey

Sunlight on linoleum.
Empty kitchen chair.
Coffee cup stacked
on other coffee cups.
Each another word
for absence. 

Blender, microwave,
can opener…
of all this room’s appliances.
I am the most useless.
When you’re not cooking,
my hunger can’t be bothered. 

I figured the bedroom
would be the scene
of dam-burst eyes,
no sheets, no blankets,
mattress indentations
reverting to the mean. 

But no,
first sight of cupboard,
first brush with sink,
my sorrow’s done enough
for today. 

Many years ago, I asked the question:
does the refrigerator light
really go out when you close the door?
I believe you’ve answered it.

John Grey

Your father was lost in the woods.
He tumbled off a cliff into a deep crevasse.
He was eaten by a bear.
He was kidnapped by moon-men. 

No backwoodsman, no mountain climber,
no adventurer, no rocket scientist like him
would simply pack some shirts
and trousers in a suitcase,
kiss a child on the cheek,
drive off in the lesser of the two family cars,
and never be seen again. 

But the woods were a marriage.
The cliffs were boredom.
The bear was Michelle
who tended bar at the pool hall.
And the moon’s what you stare at,
the man most of all.

The potato has its own eyes,
dry as a sermon.
It’s a cruel, hard, inviolate vegetable,
able to live in a burlap bag
with a hundred others of its kind.
As she peels its dull skin,
her fingers form a cold compromise
with the blade.
If the cut is slow and even,
it will leave her flesh alone.
And, if her eyes are to water,
they must do it on their own.

Her husband’s in the military.
In his world, potato peeling
is punishment.
She hasn’t seen enough of him lately
to appreciate the irony.
There’s no gruff sergeant standing over her
unless life itself is a gruff sergeant.
She looks up every now and then
but that’s not where the orders come from.

She much prefers onions.
They attack her eyes
from the first invasion of their skin.
Tears well up
and who’s to say where they’re coming from.
A potato is indifferent.
An onion sympathizes.

John Grey