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Poems by John Grey – What Do You Think? and Strip Club April 8, 2020

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WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To give validity
to the quality
of my words

I showed them
to three different people
whose views
I greatly valued –

I left the room
so they could read them
without interference
from my presence –

when they returned,

one said
“interesting”

the second,
“needs work”

the third,
“it’s getting there”.

This was merely
my latest foray
into the opinions of others.

Interesting,
needs work,
it’s getting there

is how I rate them.

 

STRIP CLUB

The sign is as dingy as the doorway below.
It must have stripped off some bulbs
in tandem with the dancers within.
Should you go in?
Rain does your thinking for you.
And the cab driver wants his dough.
You pay him, then retreat to the safety of an awning,
wait until two guys stride up the sidewalk
and into the club without looking sideways.
That’s your cue.
Once inside, you’re assaulted by bright pink light
from one direction and a deep red from another.
If sordid had a palette,
you’re sure these would be the first colors it would choose.
to adorn its seedy canvas.
It’s just not the colors but the nakedness
your eyes must adjust to.
You turn away from the woman dancing on the countertop,
stumble into a chair and table that appears vacant,
cast your eyes around, breathe a sigh at not being
the only unaccompanied patron of the place.
That’s when desire takes over.
The dancer really is totally naked.
Her breasts are saggy
and birthmarks are like a signature
scribbled just below the navel.
But she’s anonymous and so are you.
Your loins harden,
eyes linger at the rim of their sockets.
Sweat tickles your brow
and your skin begins to tingle.
The waitress comes by,
squawks, “What are you having?”
You have a hard time answering.
You are not sure there is a name for it.

BIO:

John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. His work has been featured in Front Range Review, Studio One and Columbia Review, Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly.

Poems by John Grey – What I Hear in the Night and With a Writer December 14, 2019

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WHAT I HEAR IN THE NIGHT

I hear a weeping in the night,
for all I have lost no doubt,
an intense weeping.

But then I hear laughter,
for how little I miss
what I no longer have,
a vociferous laughter.

It’s followed up
by the sound of hustle and bustle,
to encourage me, I’m sure,
to go on with my life,
this hustle and bustle of moving.

And then there’s a complete silence,
in honor of my being gone…
at least I assume there’s silence.
How can I ever know?

 

WITH A WRITER

“You do realize that I’m a writer,” she said,
“that some of my wildest, darkest, most intimate thoughts
end up on sheets of paper.
And they’re joined there by my anxieties.|
Luckily, my conversation seldom varies from the superficial.:”

She said her current issue was a leaking bathroom tap.
And that, according to the weather man, rain was expected.
Nothing of identity roles, gender issues, passive-aggressive contretemps.
And she served ice tea and cookies.
Not dilemmas, not social concerns, and not a word
as to what people are really like.

She added that she only ever opens up
to her keyboard and computer screen,
that, no matter how comfy we get
amid her floor cushions,
any heart to heart is likely to be
much more anatomical than honest.

I replaced the washer in her tap. It still leaked.
I stared out her window, watched black clouds begin
their slow crawl from the west.
We hugged a while, as people do when it’s expected of them.
We even kissed, but more like a period
putting an end to a suspended sentence.

But I never saw her poem.
So I still don’t know what happened. 

BIO:

John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. His work has been featured in Front Range Review, Studio One and Columbia Review, Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly.

 

Poems by John Grey – You Get the News and So Soon August 26, 2019

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YOU GET THE NEWS

The news
can’t be easily compartmentalized.
It won’t stay down
with dead aunts and uncles
or even the friend
whose death was expected.
It wants to be on the move
from head to heart and back again.
And the last thing it needs
is for you to fall asleep.
The news is an artist
in its own way.
It paints a gory picture
of a car wrapped around a tree
at the side of an icy road.
Then it hangs the canvas
in full view of your unwilling imagination.
You close your eyes
but that doesn’t erase the dark.
You bury your head in the pillow
but so does disbelief
and its trained seal act of
no no no – it’s impossible –
this couldn’t have happened –
not to Nathan.
Why him, you wonder.
Why not me?
You feel guilty
at your own breath.
Regret for your over-pounding chest.
You roll over to the other side of the bed,
make it safely but implicated.

SO SOON

But when exactly?
At this very moment?
Maybe there are moments inside moments
and one of these is when it’s happening.
I was expecting to have to wait.
But events don’t pay much heed to expectation.
So she’s here.
The storm’s begun.
I feel the pain.
The phone rings.
The bell ding-dongs.
The lights go out.
The lights come on.
I prefer the chaste version of time,
the kind of passages that don’t move a second forward
unless everything has been considered,
all factors taken into account.
But the time I get has been around the block,
even around the clock, a few times.
Sometimes, it just happens.
It’s five o’clock
and a breath later it’s six.
I’ve got an hour or more before I have to get ready.
So why am I running so late?
It’s time to leave already.
Or set sail.
Or catch a flight.
Or study for the exam.
This world I live in
is a procrastinator’s nightmare.
I try to hide behind a postponement.
But the day, the hour, the very second,
know where to find me.

BIO:

John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. His work was recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East, and North Dakota Quarterly, with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and the Dunes Review.   

Poem by John Grey – Ugly May 26, 2019

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UGLY

Ugly.
That’s what the other girls called you
all the way through grammar school.
Not ugly as sin.
They were still too young
to make that connection.
But ugly as yourself,
the face in the mirror that
your mother assured you was just lovely.
You weren’t convinced.
She only said it sometimes
and, even then, you were learning
that mothers always come out with that stuff
when they’re talking to their children.
Maybe she saw some kind of beauty.
Maybe she just wished it was there.
But the other kids were adamant.
You looked like the back end of a mule.

Some growing does come with
its own beauty treatment of course.
You journeyed from that mule’s rear
to its head to a more dignified horse’s noggin
and, finally, by the age of thirteen,
were a girl, average in appearance,
among other, mostly average, young girls.
Some even hung with you.
They forgot all of those ancient slurs.
You did too.
By then, your mother never commented
on your looks themselves,
just what you were doing with them:
the dresses worn too high above the knee,
the raids on the grownup makeup case.

By then, guys came into the frame.
The one you liked called you
and your friends ugly.
At sixteen, he couldn’t be with you enough.
By then, ugly had become more
indicative of the one who said it
than the ones they were saying it to.
You took ugly as a signpost
to a time when you wouldn’t be.

 

BIO:

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 the Dunes Review.   

Poem by John Grey – Whiskey on the Rocks January 5, 2019

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WHISKEY ON THE ROCKS

Once again,
one face floats up
out of the jangling whiskey glass,
one flittering shadow more alive
than all the big beef
in this barroom,
one voice in my head
that drowns out
all the sports talk,
politics and television rehash.

Drink to forget
and all I do is remember;
one sip and we’re high up
on the Ferris wheel,
comparing eye-lights
to the Chicago skyline;
another sip
and we’re lazing on the beach,
dancing in a club,
cooling our heels
while heating up love
on a verdant stretch of meadow.

One more sip
and the rocks are you,
melting into my head swoon,
or they’re the rocks below,
and I’m still not done
crashing on them hard.

 

BIO:

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.

Poem by John Grey – Ten Blocks to the South of Here November 25, 2018

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Ten Blocks to the South of Here

I see two men grieving in a shadow.
One says he’s fresh out of breadcrumbs.
The other put his stock in the smell of rivers
If only for a moment, I represent logic
just by keeping my mouth shut.
One says, the willows wouldn’t keep his secret.
The other was unaware her lips were on fire.
It’s night out. I am this empty mirror
slowly filling with what I see.

 
BIO: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. His work has recently been published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Poem by John Grey – Scarred Face in a Mirror May 19, 2018

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Ugly zigzag lines
slide down the glass like mercury,
a recurring wave
that stumbles the sound of confidence.

Flares fly off wherever skin is visible,
May as well point out horror with a cue stick.
And the mirror being cruelly convex,
a face bulges toward its source.

Promised some grafting,
you’re restless as the raindrops on the pane,
longing to be have it done
no matter the cost, the consequence.

Without new cheeks, new chin, new brow,|
there is no tenderness, no amusement, just regret.
A mirror cannot keep a secret.
This is the face that belies description.

It looks much better in dreams.
This view, even in the waning light,
can’t protect you going forward.|
It is a life with visible scars.

It has no dimension other than
what someone did to you
or what you did to yourself.
There is no honor
in any attempt to conceal it.

And indifference is a lie.
You are scarred for life.
You are scarred for living.

BIO: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Poem – The Couple by John Grey February 6, 2018

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THE COUPLE

Pony-tailed, bearded,
tattoos riding both arms,
his vision of driving big rigs
from coast to coast
has mutated into the reality
of pushing a lawn-mower
through someone else’s weeds.

 Straight out of high school,
bright red hair
too tight to be braided,
both cheeks freckled
and lips cherry-red,
her fantasy was to be a movie star,
but she married the big lug
and now has three kids
to prove it.

They live in a trailer
and barely get by.
They never almost had it made.
They didn’t once feel it
fumbling from their grasp.
The closest they came
was a ride in his uncle’s
ramshackle Chevy
and her drunken night
at a karaoke bar.

Big rig, singing star –
with those two?
Dreams know better.

BIO: John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review, with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

 

Poem by John Grey – The Breaking of the Drought August 11, 2017

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THE BREAKING OF THE DROUGHT

The rain is, at first,
like giant’s spit.
a few drops on the window,
a couple on the roof,
and then a half-hearted volley
that scatters its rat-a-rats
across the parched soil.

But then that giant
switches on his sprinkler system.
There’s no great force
behind the drops
but they slip into a welcome routine,
follow one behind the other.

But the big guy’s not done yet.
He starts emptying out his wells
and the sky is a grey melee
of a million tipped buckets.

Before long, the land is soaked through
and the word “drought”
is as forgotten as yesterday’s pop star.

But that giant likes nothing more
than to light his fire when he’s done,
sit down before it’s huge flames
and smoke cigarette after cigarette.

It’s the same giant.
Despite praise to the contrary,
there is no other.

BIO:

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Front Range Review, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly

 

 

 

Poem – Deaf Man by John Grey April 21, 2017

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DEAF MAN

I have a hard time
imagining where the sound went.
It was here
when I was twelve.
But today, it’s nowhere to be heard.
Without sound,
I can’t even ask somebody where it is.

But I’ve held down a job in that vacuum.
I’ve made friends with my hands.
The sub-titles on my television screen
describe noise to me.

And I have a lover now.
I touch her gently.
Her mouth opens
but nothing comes out
I have to rely on her face
for any and all responses.
Thankfully,
Joanna’s everything sound used to be

BIO: 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Cape Rock and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Poem and Spoon River Poetry Review.