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.


Nervous laughter
unexpectedly beats its wings,
blood breaks from bodily closeness,
into a head
brightened by love.

The tighter he holds her,
the more she lets herself go,
her face treated with
a shiny dusting of ecstasy,
her eyes, like gems,
dug from a vein
of perfect joy.

His hands train
a once lonely mouth
to forgo its innocence,
press tight to his.
Her words,
no longer adolescent chatter,
sing with slight murmur,
meaning unnecessary,
intent enough.

This proves
her life can handle feel-good.
And her body is perfect soil
for a flight of sweet seeds.
Her heart no longer clings to its chamber.
It's out and about,
puffs in her breath,
beats where her head lies.


From you I get
ten years or more
of the distances I must travel,
the places I need to get to.

You cocoon me
in plates of galvanized steel
coated with zinc.
That's safer than a mother's womb.

You don't lick my hand like a dog
and you're more expensive
to maintain and feed
but you cruise the highways
at speeds to leave
the swiftest canine
yapping at your exhaust.

Your internal combustion engine
is the heart
to shame all others.
And all it takes is one turn of a key
to set it to humming.
When I think of all the women I've known...
whither that key?

And your dashboard
is one side of a most illuminating conversation
that happens in real time.
Tachometer, gas gauge, odometer, warning lights -
need I go on.
Now where exactly do you find that stuff
in the average human being?

1 can't believe your workmanship.
And your paint job is exquisite.
Best of all, when you finally die,
I can just go ahead and get myself another.

At any time, good or bad,
I can get behind the wheel
and drive off toward the horizon.
What else in life offers such an exhilarating way out?
What else has a horizon?


The snake lifts its head slightly,
stares at me with bead eyes.
So where's the fear of man
that I've heard so much about?
Why doesn't it slither off
into the long grass?
Does it somehow intuit my phobia?

I make a little noise
but it doesn't even retreat.
I don't think it's protecting a nest.
A high school teacher once told me
that snakes care as much about their offspring
as the rich do.
But this I know about the wealthy -
they enjoy power.
And the snake has no hesitation
in exerting all of its authority.
And with just a look.
Imagine that.

Pm joined by a friend
at that moment
and the snake darts away
quick as a hiss
at the sight of him.

"Did you see that?"
He shakes his head.
His is a confidence realized innately.
Of course, he wouldn't see it.


It's rush hour,
a week day morning,
and the woman
who pulls up beside me
at the red light
is dressed in a gray business suit,
with minimal makeup
and her hair in a bob.
Hers is definitely not
a journey designed
to head off mine
but to get her to the office
in the shortest period of time
which, in this heavy traffic,
can be painstakingly long.
And she's not adorned
for the club or the bar.
That's cubicle fare.
It's meeting room adornment.
And yet, there's something about her.
Or maybe it's about me.
I can see her
on the back of a Harley,
my muscled tattooed arms
breaking free of black leather
and gripping tight
to the chopper's handle bars
while her hands squeeze my waist
and her tight top presses into my back
and her ironed-on jeans
rub against my butt
and her hair is loose and flying
as we zoom down the highway
Of course, I don't own a motorbike.
I've never ridden one.
And I'm dressed for work myself,
and with no tattoos, an ordinary build
I sure don't look the part of a hog.
But red lights really do bring out
the go in people.


There's at least two dozen Americas,
George counts 36 or more,
forget blue states, red states, black states, white states,
every America is in a state
and differentiates only by the degree in which they know it.
And there's a gross of lives
separated by their state of grossness
and every kind of weather of course,
a thousand different arrays of darkness,
more towns than can even fit on a map
and, within those towns, ten thousand towns,
like within a year, a million-years,
and look at me, a billion posing as one.
I find living here a complicated business.
George says it's a hundred complicated businesses.

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