• John Grey

Selected Poetry by John Grey


Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the Land of the Rattle

Sure it's all frightening,

shrieking from the branches,

lightning's molten core,

dead leaves and gray clouds

trying to smother the Earth

while stray noise upsets everything

like a night cry,

the unfolding murmur

of a soon to be wild wind.

So every child born

is half that sweet talc smell,

half roaring and unhinged,

no answer to the ignominy

of a parent's egregious monotone

merely a babbling of grim expectation,

a fear of bath water

and expecting terror any moment

from whoever loves you best.

The Innocent

Her head tilts toward

the proffered communion wafer.

She's eager to nibble,

believes God is in the details.

She loves the way the autumn leaves

turn such fantastic colors.

Nature, she's convinced,

will never disappoint.

And her eyes are fixated

on the television kissers.

Will it always be like this?

She reads books,

believes the world

is pages turning

to her thumbs and fingers.

She loves the people

closest to her.

And, in her eyes,

everyone older knows more.

Sure, disappointment, disillusion,

are waiting for her

in the distance, in the future.

Nothing more cruel

than all that hasn't happened yet.

But right now, innocence can take it.

Your Diary

I keep a diary for those

who don't write one. The amiable crack-head in the wiped-out alley,

the melancholy tramp who stumbles across the street, swears that traffic hasn't been invented yet.

Out comes the pen, when the passenger opposite me on the train does nothing but read Vogue and be lovely.

The middle-aged couple are too busy to be chroniclers, she with her parcels, he with mouth bordering chin.

And the kids on the basketball court haven't learned to spell yet. The young guy escorting the heavenly creature doesn't know what day it is.

I record the wave of ladies headed for the restaurant and weekly chat. I notate, tellingly as I can, the drunken hordes inside the bar.

Sure, sportswriters shed box-scores like fall leaves but my dimension is the strikes, the foul balls, of the heart, the head.

And the classifieds can tell you when your boat departs, stranger. But not why you're tossing streamers from the deck as it leaves port. That's my domain.

I can make it sound like responsibility

but it's nothing of the sort. No one ever sees and, even if they do, no one ever knows.

So please, keep on doing

whatever it is you do. I've got my eyes and ears open. I need you to stay human.

You Can Get behind the Wheel Again

A graveyard of junk cars in the lot

but it’s the Chevies

the guys are here for.

They pick the bones from hub caps

to hood ornaments.

Some are even piecing the together

the Chevy of the mind,

hunting up spare parts

from a wreck here,

a rust bucket there.

Blood stains do not bother them.

They pull a seat up seat up

by the springs.

Even a cruddy Styrofoam cup

comes along with the drinks tray.

Nothing like a rear window

with a sticker declaring,

“Thank God I’m a country girl.”

A tattooed guy in greasy overalls

doesn’t even blink.

So many of these middle-aged men

are intent on getting more mileage

out of their youth.

Maybe a steering wheel will help.

Or the door of a trunk.

Or a roll bar.

Someone grabs onto a fuel cap

then raises his fist in the air

like he’d scored a goal.

And it’s been at least twenty years

since he did that for real.

Loaded up with metal and plastic,

fake leather and glass,

everybody leaves happy…

everybody leaves younger.

Leaving the 80’s Behind

It’s so long since anyone I knew

had AIDS.

Skin and bones are so 80’s.

There’s still one or two with HIV

but the pills keep them topside.

Their skulls don’t protrude

through cheeks and brow.

They’ve found a place in the world.

They’re not waiting to die.

This is not the decade

of tearful confessions.

No one’s telling the parents

or the kids who just might

have it too.

The support services are

still out there.

But the hugs aren’t fearful.

The kisses press flesh genuinely.

In the 80’s, there

were people who needed

someone to talk to.

Everybody did.

But the one subject matter

lorded it above all others.

Now, the range of topics

has been restored.

The lower east side apartments

are full of lifers.

Death row’s back in prison

serving whatever time it’s got.

Found in the Trash outside the Freak Show

The bearded lady held the razor one inch from her chin tonight. She even brushed the longest hairs with sharp steel edge.

Somewhere in her head, her brain did the very same thing. "Damn my career," she must have spat into the mirror a hundred times.

The pin-headed man discussed hormone shots with his doctors. Alligator guy, embarrassment buried in a long coat, contemplated various skin creams at the pharmacy..

The Siamese twins watched home shopping network, on the lookout for

specials in Ginsu knives. The wolf boy hung outside the barber shop for hours. Who wants to be a freak forever?

But it was

Brian William Gordon Yates who finally broke from

side show world. He shaved his beard, fattened up his skinny frame,

healed his skin blotches, cut off his old cronies, got a haircut, started working at a real job. He swears this is his last poem ever.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Harpur Palate and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.