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Poem by John Grey – Coin in the Jukebox February 11, 2022

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Coin in the Jukebox

Put a coin in the jukebox
and remember what you wish to remember.
You half-smile when the needle hits shellac.
You can breathe without having to worry
whether or not your lungs are there to greet the air.
You don’t have people wary of you
as if your very touch is poison.

Put that coin in the jukebox.
The effort won’t be wasted.
You can spread your arms wide
or hug yourself tighter.
It doesn’t matter if strangers think you’re crazy.
Insanity has all the best tunes anyhow.
You can be yourself, by yourself,
with legs kicking up a storm
and hips swaying a hurricane.

Put that coin in the jukebox
and sing along with the best croak
your old frog throat can mister.
Show them how wild you can be
as song plops on top of song,
and the names get lost in the vinyl shuffle.
It’s all about the beat
and not the hens who cackle how
you should act your age.

Put that coin in the jukebox
for every old friend gone mute,
for the guys who’ve long hung up their dancing shoes.
Forget the time.
Raise the volume.
There’s nothing like a luminous wrinkled face.
Your withered legs could do this all night.

Put that coin in the jukebox.
A neglected high awaits.
Some singer, long dead,
will give you tips on how to stay alive.
So what if you don’t know the words to the song.
The ones you sing will be minted in the moment.

Put that coin in the jukebox.
Ignore the bartender, the other drinkers.
Leave them to their alcohol-powered disillusion.
Some guy has a trumpet in his mouth.
Another thrashes a willing kit of drums.
The singer unleashes a string of passionate half-sentences.
So much for the soft hue of memory.
It’s a blazing cauldron.

Put that coin in the jukebox.
You create an island for yourself
in waters of sneering and disgust.
With a healthy strut, you grant time permission
to take all those unwanted years back.
You want to be seventeen again.
So push that coin in the slot.
Increase the likelihood.

BIO: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review

Poem by John Grey – The Loud Honk September 27, 2021

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THE LOUD HONK

Traffic near stalled.
The car in front of me
continued to occupy
the place I wanted to be
more than any other.
But, as the vehicle inched forward,
so did that place.

I could see the back of the head
of the woman driving.
It didn’t matter who she was,
what she looked like
or whether her personality
was frothy beer or iced tea.
I couldn’t tell if it
was her selfishness,
or just plain luck,
that saw her edge by
Greg’s liquor store
moments ahead of me.
or stop for some guy
in the crosswalk
when that was a role
I could only see myself in.

I finally pressed my finger
on the horn
because I wanted her to know
that, though she was already
crossing Elm street 
and it looked like
I wouldn’t make the light,
that tomorrow could well
be a different story.

That was the sound you all heard.
Not my impatience.
My ultimate vindication.

BIO: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. His latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. He has work upcoming in Lana Turner and International Poetry Review.

Poem by John Grey- The Flight Conundrum May 5, 2021

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The Flight Conundrum

Last night, I dreamed that I was flying.
As far as my subconscious is concerned,
there’s no such thing as gravity.
Waking, however, brings it back into play.
I can stand up straight
but that’s as far as it gets.

Yes, I admit, that I once got high 
on your sweetly passionate kisses.
But that was more of a sensibility thing.
In physical terms, my feet were firmly on the ground.

But, in that dream,
I was soaring over rooftops, 
lakes and forests.
And there seemed to be no reason for it.
Nothing was pulling at me from below.
Not mortgage payments.
Not a roof in need of repair.
No backpain.
Not even a slow night on TV.

I wonder if birds dream 
of having two legs, two arms,
no wings, no feathers,
and pushing a lawnmower 
up and down a backyard lawn.
I’d like it better if they did.

BIO

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.

Poem by John Grey – To Feel the Power December 17, 2020

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To Feel the Power

The wooden bridge 
crosses the river 
at its most virile,
spring current,
as cold as mountaintops,
crashing and splashing 
against rock and bank.

None bother fishing 
in the torrent.
And swimming 
in its brisk waters
would be like dogpaddling
with a broken log.

All we can do 
is grip the railing,
lean into the spray,
act as momentary buffer
between snow thaw and gravity
before pulling away.

Elsewhere,
wide blue sky,
lack of wind,
presages a calm
that’s there for the asking.
But, for now,
we prefer 
the rage, the frenzy,
the turbulent spring waterway
that tells us what to do.

BIO

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest book, “Leaves On Pages” is available through Amazon.

Poem by John Grey – Where the Buffalo Roamed August 10, 2020

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WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAMED

A camping site
for warriors
in skins

now a street
of houses
in vinyl siding.

No lookout
for unfriendly tribes

but there is
a “Neighborhood Watch” sign.

Where buffalo roamed,
roadways choke with
cars, SUV’s,
a moving truck or two.

In the park,
the homeless
find shade under
the marble moccasins
of a chieftain’s statue.

 

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.  

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.