• John Grey

Selected Poetry by John Grey


Photo Source: LibreShot


Yes I know the past

is not even past

but must it move in with me?

Good people and bad,

they fill the rooms,

take up almost every space,

I can barely breathe,

only remember.

I didn’t realize

the present could be

so encumbered

with what happened

last week, last year,

all the way back to my childhood.

But here they are.

And there’s me doing stuff

with them and to them.

Meanwhile, they’re affecting me.

Every move I make

requires their consent.

Everything I say

they hear and respond to.

Someone that I know now

shows up and

the characters in my

personal history

won’t even step aside.

So much for

a cozy night in

with pleasant company.

Three’s a crowd.,

One thousand

is a syndrome.


Night’s packed solid, as stiff as your fingers.

It’s six o’clock. Early February cold.

Not a puff of wind. The earth has stopped.

Your life doesn’t bristle, but chills at the suggestion.

The oaks, the maples,

have seen all this before.

But now they’ve an intruder to deal with.

You’re thin, bundled up but bare-headed,

boots crusted with ice,

chin with white whiskers.

You could die out here.

The bare trees are asking,

“Is that what you want?”

The air you breathe

is oxygen whose time is up.

The temperature is far below

the warm that gave you life.

You’ve been warned.

There’ll come a time

when a man would rather die

than go on with it.

Maybe they were just describing winter.

Then suddenly wind picks up.

It has mind to blow you somewhere.

At the edge of the woods,

your home is in sight.

A light burns in a window

like another year or two.


The house belongs to a couple

who’ve moved into something smaller.

The walls are blank but for

the marks where pictures hung.

Floors, stained here and there, creak.

The place is doing its best to look new

but history won’t have it.

The woman from the real estate agency

says nothing.

She wants the house to do the talking.

The rooms feel as nervous as wallflowers.

One word from you

and that hardwood can exhale.

Your husband’s in the cellar

checking out the pipes.

You’re in the smallest upstairs room.

Something invited you in

but was it the wind or the unborn?

It’s the tenth house

the two of you have looked at.

It accommodates your footsteps.

But does it welcome the times of your life?


Heat slows the senses

and there’s no wind

but for the flapping wings

of a peafowl.

The male half of a couple we’ve met

volunteers to take our picture.

It’s the kind of snap I hate –

grinning tourists in the foreground,

Taj Mahal in the background –

as if everything is arranged

in order of importance.

In reality,

we’re dwarfed by that mausoleum,

insignificant beside the giant marble dome,

staunch minarets,

the avenues, fountains of the Mughal gardens.

But we smile because

being who and where we are

is the best that we can do.

And the Taj Mahal is like much in our lives.

It just happens to be there.


Behind the yellow tape,

the passion of speculation,

stirred by everything not yet revealed

about a body being stretchered

from a house.

All these connections

to the laws of human nature,

the common language,

shared beliefs,

attach themselves to the familiar –


Why all the cop cars?

How did he die?

How did she die?

Was it murder?

Much muttering

in the background.



The shared angst

of inability

to draw a conclusion.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and Roanoke Review.