Poetry: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Transcend, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Hawaii Pacific Review and Clade Song.


Here’s to the big cat
that’s stalking
and then ambushing
whatever’s out there alone 
or lags far behind
the others in its group.

A single spring,
a bite to the throat,
muscles rippling as one,
to fell the prey 
with a powerful 
twist of its jaws.

Death is lithe.
It is elegant.
And as lusty 
as the summer wind.
As sensual as sex.

It is everything
that I wish for life.


Night brings out lights,
neon glazing the window,
bare bulb shadowing the ceiling,
city beyond 

and a tiny apartment
surrounding her,
nothing worth spitting on,
empty purse

and a body beginning to swell,
a silent cell phone –
what else can there be?
Oh yes, just ask the mirror

about the scars of teenage acne
and dark lines around the eyes.
This is what she has to work with.
With a cigarette, it’s enough.


Waves scatter shells along the beach,
hang them out to dry  
while sandpipers, gulls, peck at their innards,
and a pelican observes from a nearby rock.

The warm sky’s in abundance,
articulates, in color, its consciousness of health 
and hardiness below, sand draped like towels,
the white blood of foam running.

I scribble my name deep with sea-rotted wood,
a mortal life in immortal circumstances,
letters, curls, of passion, desire, aspiration,
the offspring of ribs and backbone, joints and hips.

Around me, above, air thickens with senses,
wing-shapes, beak scoops, high-pitched wails,
even a child’s cry at the myriad enjoyments,
swimming, splashing, digging, shouting,

a sacra conversazione, the forefront of pleasure. 
I drift away from the crowd, a fool’s errand
to find where the beach ends in more beach,
as pale pink as clam walls, gentle on the soles.

Dabs of water rinse my feet, 
salt imbues the salts of the body,
grains start small but eventually delight me all over,
the sands of life pressed between my toes.


There's the religion that occupies my head
from time to time
and the one that knocks on my door
when I'm in the middle of doing something.
The former becomes expansive, pantheistic even,
when I'm in the great outdoors
and there's too much beauty
to go with my timid explanations.
The latter is two clean cut young men
in blue suits, white shuts,
traces of acne on their chins,
and shiny shoes that,
if they were any more lumbering,
would be boots.

Of course, there's times
when my troubled mind can't get around
the rough stuff that happens
to smooth people,
the ones that die well before their time
and not forgetting
the chaos that sets the beleaguered standard
for this everyday world of ours.
These smiling Latter Day Saints
aren't here to give God's explanation for that.
They have a message they want me to hear.
I have questions I know they cannot answer.
So why would I burden myself
with the printed paraphernalia they're trying to hand me.
Yes, they could be my salvation.
But more likely they're like the kids
who used to sell magazine subscriptions
to help pay their way through college.
For subscriptions, read converts.
For college, substitute their personal ascension into heaven.
Right now, religion is a disturbance
when I'm doing something else
My sin is a closed door in two faces
and a return to the task at hand


Come on world…just one lover?
One wife to encompass the next
forty, fifty years?

Is there some unwritten rule I’m not aware of?
Or do you just take the lazy way out?
One wife? Why can’t I have a series of them?

Granted, I would miss the one I have.
And by the sixth or seventh,
the missing of the previous wives
would be overwhelming.
Is that why I only get one?
A man can only suffer through so much missing?

But then there’s that term “other half.”
I could have sworn I was whole
back in my single days.
I’ve even heard “better half” bandied about.
Come on world… just two halves?
And why don’t I end up with the good one?

Setu, June 2020

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