Poems by John Grey

Pic by Jeswin Thomas


Love Anyone?

There’s a love that adopts
to this technological society
like a third hand
from fancy microwave ovens
to a ten-foot-tall refrigerator
with double freezer doors.

It can pull back over-cooked chicken
from the brink of destruction
and destroy a cockroach
with one swift blow of a rolled-up New York Times.

It can pay bills
and scrub toilet bowls,
wipe the webs from the ceiling
and make the necessary arrangements,
no matter what needs to be arranged.

And yet it can pose unwittingly
like a beauty in an Ingres painting
while doing nothing more
than staring out the window
at the rainfall.

There’s a love that can do
everything that needs to be done.
Except love of course.
That’s where love comes in.


The Treatment

I’m about to start bankruptcy proceedings.
an implement as uncomfortable
as somebody other than me tapping my toes.
And then there’s mother, father –
in a time-warp.
discussing the truth of the matter.
at the Veterans Hospital
while I’m breathing my own dust and listening to death metal –
but now everything’s going plastic.
and the loom’s broke,
no more carding at the jewelry factory,
no more worrying that I’m not born yet
or crooning the Sammy Cahn songbook –
it did happen,
something just rhymes
fifty years after the birth of rock and roll,
Elvis and Fats, Little Richard and Chuck,
coming at me from all angles.
He still thinks it’s all about the war.
He’s a throwback.
I can’t remember whether it was
his job at the canning factory
or a hot July afternoon resting on his shovel.
I volunteer at the local history museum.
Imagine that, in a smart suit.
I play in a smart jazzy quartet.
In his eyes, how am I doing?
Sing into a microphone, a wannabe crooner.
Kids are amused by how it was then,
when there was a man of the family.
My chest heaves like dunes in sea-wind.
My grandmother weaved rugs
My mother cleaned floors
I get a job at the jewelry shop.
But nobody can afford cheap earrings and bracelets any more.
Now I’m one of the unemployed, pacing the pavement,
Poor and forced to grow my own vegetables.
Progress and me – such a hopping and a bopping night
Saw a pretty woman.
She’s looking but she misses me –
I’m as skinny as my tie,
despite snapping my fingers.
So I scat – so I whistle –
someday, I’m sure, another job
will come my way,
swinging and singing,
the essence of cool,
the gold dust and the heavy metal.
The veterans all died, my dad among them.
The watch factory closed.
There is no plastic factory.
No one saw it coming.
Whatever happens can never make it up –
to the ones who came before.
The future is too slow.
The past wins in a rout.


Definition of Loneliness

It is skies
where clouds potter
like old women in gardens.

It’s a rocking chair
on a patio
that has worn away
through the years
until it only fits
the one body.

It’s winds
that blow and blow.
and the echo
of every church-bell
ever rung.

It’s that plate,
those utensils,
and meals tepid enough
to match your appetite.

At midnight,
in bed,
it’s whatever your hands
grab hold of.

It’s not a dream.
But a cue for you to stop dreaming.


Out and About

Sometimes, the dark street shudders,
a cold geography of nightmare —
an old black and white horror film
spinning helplessly at the end of its reel.
Invisible scissors cut away at it.
Even safe in bed, I feel the editor at work.

There’s Casey’s bar, where the jukebox batters
like a blackjack and the tenth beer
tastes of bile and blood.
Cigarette smoke idles its way to the ceiling.
The shadow in the corner is on fire.
And the sidewalk itself, that mass grave
where corpses still move, if you can call
that funereal shunt moving.

Hard truths single out the straggler.
I remain silent which means nodding my head
in agreement in some circles.
My own existence has a suitably low opinion of itself.
It exists on the edges of my flesh,
with cheap neon and red lipsticked war criminals in drag.

And the dark street is up to its elbows in trash,
syringes and spit, broken glass and second hand condoms.
It’s become its own habit, lacks the courage to resist.
A woman whispers how she wants to come home with me.
Her flesh, like onion skin, crinkles at the touch.


Living in a Rattrap

It’s not a good thing
when the rat shows itself.
It means there’s other rats
close by.
And it’s even worse
when it doesn’t scatter
at the sight of you
but merely glares
with tiny black rodent eyes,
its mouth twitching
in the early stages
of a teeth baring.
Or even speech.
Can you imagine that?
The rat saying something like,
“Either you learn to share
or I’ll hustle up
some of the pack
from down in the sewer
and totally infest this place.”
That’s what comes
of living in a rattrap.
Everyone’s trapped
except the rat.



About the Author

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.