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.


All these footprints on the sand.
Some tiny as bees, other's like Godzillas.
Many seem proud to have been made.
A few are diffident.
Some, meek and tip-toed.
The sand sure does get the most out of people.
It gives them depth or it lets them be their fitful selves.
It bellows the heroic confidence of straight lines
or accommodates the meanderings
of legs not speaking to the head.
There's a knee to match its finest shells.
And even a hand like the beach is
suddenly Grauman's Chinese Theater.
So many impressions to glory in
or gloat at man's passing.

The water's got it in for these concave sculptures.
It's nudging closer and closer to the indentations.
That liquid doesn't mind a good show
but it won't stand for any competing immortality.
So incoming tide takes the near past as an insult.
Each drop of water knows "Ozymandias" by heart.


I've got the automobile
and you have the crabapple and the cowslip.
Driving is my institution.
Spring's more your vocation, invocation even.
I'm metal plus tar.
You're green though you're willing to throw in the sky.
I make my approach into your unreal joy.
I've a simple itinerary.
You add sorrel and laurel
into your complex mix.

I'm alone this time.
Your attitude toward solitude
is to be whole.
I take my foot off the accelerator.
You balance within.

It's a Sunday for me.
Your day of rest is also your day of business.
I no longer roam your trails like a skin-clad savage.
There may be less of you these days
but what there is
is the original.

Some would tell you
that God is at work in both of us.
Or that I've evolved.
And you haven't seen the need to.
Sometimes we meet like this,
a love affair
with sigh on one side
and wind on the other.

I park where I can
You merely remain
where you have always been.
The rest of my way is on foot.
It's the least I can do
for all of your way.


Such a wicked bedspread.
You did nothing to prevent
the heavy-set woman
and the burly man
get all naked and sweaty atop you.
Plenty white, a touch of red -
you wear the stains as proudly
as your neatly sewn patches.
Would a tapestry allow such wickedness?
A curtain? A Persian carpet?

You plead neutral
but I reckon you encouraged
the humping, the grinding,
all that moaning,
the ubiquitous, "Yes, yes, yes."
Look - you still bear
the indentation of
body atop body.
You've made no attempt
to straighten yourself out.

Not content to let sleepers lie,
you wake them up
to indulge your baser instincts.
Oh the stories you could tell -
that doesn't mean you have to tell them.

(Page One)

You are about to ask me why I called.
I'm here to tell you.
I want to discuss the wound in my chest - no, not a bullet wound,
not something self-inflicted.

To be honest, I'm at a loss for topics of conversation.
What does the weather here mean to the weather where you are?
Who cares who's having babies?
Work. Good local restaurants.
No that isn't why I called.

You question the hour.
It's three hours earlier where you are.
You recognize the fact that I'm up late.
I have a wound.
Isn't that a good enough excuse not to sleep?

You think I'm crazy.
I can hear it in your voice.
You're about to say, "Get help."
But isn't that what I'm doing.

I love listening to your voice.
It has the power to heal such gashes in the skin.
It can even melt the eventual scars.
I can feel you looking at me through the wires.
The gaze in your words is powerful.

Yes, it could get infected.
I don't think it's about to spread.
It bleeds. It congeals. It stains.
Relationships have made do with worse.
Not that I'm in favor of going back -
hugs and kisses, my laceration against your perfect skin.
No, that's not why I called.
I'm not asking for miracles.
It's the fact that miles can be breached that helps me.
A few numbers punched into a telephone
and it's if the states between
cease to exist.
If a country can disappear,
then why not a crimson opening, a stinging pain?

(Page Two)

You struggle to shift the talk away from deep incisions,
flesh exposed, internal organs closer to the surface
than they've ever been.
Maybe these are parts of me that never had
the opportunity to apologize.
There's nothing more sincere than my intestine.

I should bandage this thing, I appreciate that.
But old times, they've always been an adequate dressing.
Rhode Island in '97 - such compress and binding.
Nights down by the river - staunched the blood in one.

Yes, I know it's late.
You're begging off,
drifting toward the end.
And I confess, I'm tired.
I find it more and more difficult
to support the satellite that connects us.
It wants us done
so other parties can try to patch things up.
But that never was my intention.
It's this wound.
It's not what I wish to remember you by.

You understand the system.
We live in bodies.
And they're vulnerable to what can hurt.
And we live with communication devices.
They must have some reason for being here.
Last of all, there's people.
In times of wounds,
we work our way through them,
beginning with the ones we love.


The ceiling is like gray sky,
with spreading damp spots for clouds.
The wallpaper is medieval scenery.
It peels in places, is faded elsewhere.

The furniture I’m afraid is old and rotting.
Woodworm show no mercy.
The clamminess is cruel.
The curtains are frayed,
the Persian carpets likewise.
Everything could collapse at any moment.

You're trembling.
You're so pathetic
with your walker, bent back,
gray thinning hair,
and skin stretched so tight,
your bones poke through.

If I seduce you, drain the last of your blood,
think of it as tradition's last brave stand
But if I fail, you can just leave,
unharmed, un-penetrated
but what a tale you'll have to tell your grandchildren.

I live in a moldy basement by day.
It smells of rotting corpses.
At night, I stumble through the forest, countryside,
looking for fresh blood.
Maidens are lighter on their feet
than they've ever been.
I've taken to preying on dumb cows
and pet rabbits.

Look, you're old,
and maybe your blood
is not the most refreshing on the planet
but how long have you got anyhow?
Another year? Six months?
If I keep at this,
I could live another hundred years.
You were expecting me to say, "Forever."
But I can't - not while you're here -
not while I'm staring at the word.

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