Three Poems by John Grey



Emma’s Interrupted Walk

Emma was out walking the dog when she saw them,
a girl and boy, surely still in their teens,
down behind the bushes by the lake,
he with his pants down, she with her dress up,
doing what Emma only did when married,
and then not that often, and only beneath
the blankets of her own double bed.

She grabbed at the curious dog’s leash,
jerked him away from there, as if he was a child
who must not see such things
or he’d be scarred for life.
She turned on her heels and headed toward home.
The outdoors had soured on her.
The foliage was a conspirator.
The shimmering lake water, an abettor.
The greenery was deep and far too lusty
for a woman in her seventies.

She called her friend, Marge
when she was safely in her kitchen.
The word “shameful” came up a hundred times.
There were doubts cast on the standards set by parents,
the laxness of the teachers,
the disgusting tripe on television these days.
Marge nodded over the telephone line.
She had never been wed.
And she certainly never did a thing behind bushes ever.

Emma didn’t know whether to
inform the police, or her priest.
She even wondered if she should have
broken apart the coupling on the spot.
Not that it was any of her business.
But it was her business.
Otherwise, why was she talking to Madge?


At the Jazz Club

Bass so low, my shoes throb,
syncopation rooted in thumbs,
saxophonist slips up front,
lips and hands gripping his instrument,
breath filling in the blanks
between the piano man’s tinkling
up and down the eighty-eight,
while the drummer paints a beat
on pigskin, taps the cymbals
when it’s time.

Singer grabs the mic,
sings black
as the starless places
in the night sky,
her voice a mix
of pain and pleasure,
deceit and revenge,
story and feeling,
takes tiny dance steps,
subtle hand gestures,
cocks her head back and forth
like she’s recharging her throat.

What’s a guy to do
but tap his toes some,
put it down
to my full and active life.


The Gunshot

I heard it- it woke me up –
I was watching “American Idol” —I was drinking
I was making love –

thought it was a firecracker- in early March –
or a car back-firing – I knew it was gunfire
from the first —like any other night—
it’s part of the soundtrack like sirens
and honking horns and arguments
and breaking glass –

didn’t know the kid- wasn’t from around here –
scoring drugs probably – tried to cheat
the dealer – gang member I reckon –
shot by a rival – wrong place wrong time –
it happened to my cousin – my brother –
this guy I went to school with –

we didn’t see a thing officer –
there was a car – too dark to see –
didn’t get the license plate number –
or even the make – the color –

it used to be a good neighborhood –
lots of families – everybody knew each other –
now you can’t go out on the street at night –
drugs – hookers – gangs –
you could be next – you could be the one
they’re talking about –

I felt it- how could I not – here in my heart –
not in my head though – it stopped trying to
make sense years ago —you live with it
and maybe you die by it –
it’s fear- it’s staccato –
it’s short burst of sentences
impossible to punctuate.


About the Author


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and failbetter.