Poetry: John Grey

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

John Grey

bars and empty lots
graffiti spray-painted
on every wall and road-sign
the dark miasma
rain just can’t seem to want to fall
noisy bus
glum faces in window
flowers on a stoop
where a kid was killed
girl, sixteen
tends to five brothers and sisters
while mother’s lungs gather dust
in costume jewelry factory
few jobs
little money
nothing to do but do nothing
some boy swallows lighter fluid
spits flame
another finds a gun,
shoots two hole in his bedroom wall
not once
does his older brother
tell him to stop


Maybe you should work the
anarchy trade –
obviously, your democratic arc
leads eventually to weary sullenness,
a prison of your own device,
each cell-wall marked
with scribble of the farce –
why won’t hierarchies
make a straight line?
why is the mirror
more glare than reflection?
too many patriarchs,
not enough researchers,
too much scarcity
buffed up or sugarcoated,
not enough cornerstones
for you to sharpen your blade –
a hurricane’s worth of people
blowing in all directions -
the brain is where
the sight is most disturbed;
other people talk loudly, nonsensically –
they invite you to hear
while they’re working you over.


So what’s he done?
Broken a law no doubt.
Don’t know whether I
want to see him caught
or get away.
Pity or scorn –
I can go either way.
Cops are running after him.
I can hear sirens a block or two away.
He’s on course for the park.
Wonder when the dogs come out.
I walk slowly in the direction he took,
get close enough to see the boys in blue
surround him in their vise,
push him to the ground
then cuff his hands behind his back
in time for the arrival of the paddy wagon.
Shoplifter? Mugger?
Could be he exposed himself.
Or groped a woman.
Or maybe he’s totally innocent,
just happened to be in
the wrong place at the wrong time.
So why run if that’s the case?
May as well ask why
I can’t help watching how
the whole thing pans out.
Good or bad,
there are always these places.
There are always these times.

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