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.


Trash collectors
toss green bags into the jaws of their truck,
compacting, chewing up, spitting out,
love letters squished into TV dinner boxes,
torn kneed jeans mangled with shrunken sweaters.
The cat scrounging for food didn't bother me.
Nor the raccoon. Nor the kid who kicked the can from spite.
I was asleep until they started crushing
a magazine, a broken ceramic horse, a photograph torn in haste,
as if there were no difference between them,
when people just doing their jobs
did a job on me.
My past was unprotected.
It's tormenters lacked perspective,
couldn't tell the difference between slum houses
and the mansion on the hill.
Didn't know two lovers from a husband and a wife.
Had no idea what was owned, what was merely borrowed.
They were so rough in their indifference.
They even had the nerve to mulch my stuff up
with my neighbor's.
I woke up to a world beyond all insult.
It was the clang, the bang, of no one being any different
from the rest of humanity.
It's what death must be like...
the long sleep where everything's the trash man.





A dozen painted boards on a dozen stone tables

are scattered throughout the park.

Men and women hunker down on hard marble benches,

heads on elbows, plotting, ceaselessly plotting,

all thinking confined

to within the boundaries of the playing field.


From game to game,

it’s the same sixty-four red and black squares,

arcane wooden sculptures huddled at each end,

or taking pot-shots at each other in the busy center,

or, at the hush of battle's end,

falling in with war-hardened survivors

to batter a deposed sovereign.


Mostly, the players bend over the board

as still and quiet as the cement at their feet,

But, now and then,

a thought is rerouted to the fingers

and a piece is moved.


It could be a pawn

thrust out into no-man’s land.

Or a cagey knight pouncing sideways.

Or the bishop, long and lean,

policing the diagonals.

Or the rook, squat and turreted,

bludgeoning its way forward

once its own men make way.

Or the queen,

serene and all-powerful,

the oldest living feminist.

Or the king, more prey than monarch,

stumbling one space at a time

to get out of harm’s way.


It's late October.

Wind picks up.

The trees are beginning to shed.

“Checkmate!” cries a voice.

A ruler is toppled

and a few leaves fall,

twirl about the combatants’ feet.

Only here is that possible.



Awake like a man

breaking from sleep’s tradition,

to the clamor of trucks,

the whine of sirens,

sun piercing gaps in buildings

to take measure of the lines in my face.


Wind blows up and down the sidewalk.

Trees get all their substances flowing.

I wave off dreams’ abstraction,

rising’s disorientation,

for another round of what got me here,

same body, same address,

same planet rolling through space.


Rooms fall away before my footsteps.

Two people invite me into their space.

Various sexes, shapes and states of enlightenment.

The coffee’s brewing.

True consciousness can wait.







I’m thrilled that

you’ve been paying me

all this attention


 (I truly appreciate

your interest)


and thanks for allowing me

the benefit of your brief company


but I’m not quite

seeing us as a couple


though I’m sure there

are many others out there


(worthier than me I’m sure)


who would like nothing more

than to spend extended time

with you


and value your continued presence


so thanks for letting me

listen to your spiel


and please

don’t be afraid


to repeat those lines

in just such a manner and tone


to someone

more enthralled with hearing them

than I could possibly be


perhaps that woman over there

who’s stumbling over drunk

and likely to believe anything

you tell her.





The silence of the weeds when beauty breaks -

and women loved unwisely.

The blur of songs in the rain.

Spiders loading up on dew drops.

Under the clouds, spindly trees stumble

as evening fades to the sound of things falling

leaves, glass, watery excess.

Then a purring afterglow,

forgetting there's still darkness somewhere,

and behind the murmured sounds,

the slender but sure,

no space between our chairs.

I have fallen in love with big picture

and the few details that back it up.

The years of youth may fade and tatter

like the brims of old hats,

but I'm still casting after splendor -

even as intellect fences the world,

I feast on the weep of words.

the wash of flesh.

On behalf of the soggy weed,

in lieu of the shiny wet pebble -

I celebrate where the moon glazes,

the stars involve


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