Poetry: John Grey

John Grey

It’s drizzle, the kind of rain
that insinuates more than it dampens.
The sky’s the color of gray pigeons

that wallow in small puddles, 
and as steady as the side-walk creeping snails.
Those out in it, mostly treat

the weather with indifference, 
pretend they know how to walk between drops.
Weeds lap it up. In this gentle spit,

they have found a fellow traveler. 
Some do take to shelter, 
in this case, the very old.

They’re hunched beneath the awning,
as the crowd moves quickly 
back and forth in both directions.

As in rain, as in life, they’re inured to 
being unnoticed. It’s drizzle. Like 
a curtain continually lowered.

Some hide behind it.
Some stride within it.


It was your birthday yesterday.
Friends gathered somewhere 
but it wasn’t in your 
third floor flat.
The phone rang 
but it was only your mother.
Something about the silverware
that belonged to your Aunt Doris.
Nothing to do with you
just turning thirty nine.

You cooked your favorite
chicken parmesan 
but the sauce tasted flat
and the pasta was chewy.
You lapped it up anyhow.
The wine helped.

Later, you sat down
to watch television,
with remote in hand,
flicked through the channels
like they were years of your life,
never stopping long on anyone,
for there was nothing of interest,
and no button to take you
into the realm of future programming,
where maybe, just maybe,
something could catch your attention enough
for you to stay with it.

One card did arrive three days before.
It was from the life insurance company.
A note to say how glad they are
you’re still alive.
It’s always good to hear it from somebody.


When I wake in the morning,
I don’t feel white.
Still sleepy, maybe.
Grumpy sometimes.
But not white.
Even when I look 
in the mirror,
I don’t see white.
If I was in the mood
for facial color schemes,
the visage peering back at me
would just be pinkish-brown.
But I don’t feel pinkish-brown.

My friend Ray
says he’s black 
almost all of the time.
Even if he’s not 
thinking about it,
other people remind him.
Not just white folks he says
but other black folks.
Ray’s not actually black.
More of a coffee-brown.
But such nuances don’t 
travel well around here.

Ray’s a photographer.
I asked him a “what if” once.
My question: you walk into 
your favorite coffee shop
and there’s two tables
with an empty chair at each.
At one table
sit some of your photographer friends.
At the other,
some of your black friends.
Once you’ve bought 
your coffee, who do you sit with?

Ray scratched his head.
I told him that there’s no wrong answer.
He said, but I’m black
so there must be.


Sorry, mosquito
that I crushed on my arm.
And trail of ants
that I stepped on.

I was raised 
to respect all life
but reality drew the line
at insects.

And petty tyrants
in the work place.
And road hogs.
And lawyers and politicians.
And liars. And cheats.

Or anyone I had in mind
when I was crushing 
and stepping on.


She awoke,
saw me for the first time in her life.

Her previous lover
had been a legendary being…
at least, according to the stories 
he told of himself.

I was from a smaller world
of solitude and art.

I did not know her when we were youngsters.
I didn’t even know her from the day before.

I wasn’t a great man
but I would admit to,
in my meandering and musing,
being not quite normal.

Her ex had started at the top
and dwindled over time.

I promised a steadiness 
even if it mingled fact and fantasy.

She awoke,
and I was there.

Nobody else was.

that’s how these things work.
Bio: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.

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