Poetry: John Grey

John Grey
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in New World Writing, California Quarterly and Lost Pilots. Latest books, ”Between Two Fires”, “Covert” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the Seventh Quarry, La Presa and Doubly Mad.


The secret’s out.
It’s so pleased with itself.
That’s visibility for you.
It has it all over
what I try to keep hidden.

Everyone can see it.
And their chatter repeats
it all over.
Even the kids hear.
They don’t understand it
but they still can make a game of it.

As for me,
there’s no pretending
the revelation doesn’t exist.
And that’s what it is.
A revelation.
Not a secret.

My guilt is overstretched.
My expression can’t contain myself.

Secret’s a word
for what one day
won’t be a secret.


She puts seed out for the birds in winter,
watches from the iced-up window
as they leap from dish to barren lilac bush
and back again.

She plays cupid for cardinals,
orchestra leader for the tit-mouse
and the chickadee,
ushers the homely sparrows
through another bitter night.

The busy beak
is where she finds substance.
Bird instinct,
bird ignorance of its benefactor,
is where her love's sustained.

With each chilly day,
she passes out of people
She's unafraid to lose something in herself,
then find it flighty, feathered, elsewhere.


you take life
as it comes

as long as it's
wearing blue jeans
bomber boots
and a 'hotter than a pistol” t shirt –

you like rodeo posters,
smile buttons,
line dancing
and bumper stickers
that say
"thank God I'm a country girl" -

you think truck drivers are cute
and fantasize about being
in a threesome with Keith Urban
and Brad Paisley –

you’re in this dream I’m having –

but sadly
Keith and Brad 
are in it too 


A hard freeze startles early spring,
interrupts the flow of phloem
in the bark’s underside,
thwarts the branches budding.

Walking the forest trail,
I sense the unsuspecting trees
revealed themselves too early,
embraced a month as fickle 
as a small-town beauty.

And now they pay 
with my crunching footprints,
up and down paths of icy leaves,
as boughs shudder, not just from cold,
but out of ruefulness.

They didn’t weigh the dangers,
counted on instinct,
or were already wallowing 
in the praise to come.

They’ll heal in time
but some wildflowers never will.
The green will come
but a yellow here, a purple there,
will be as briefly noted
as a man’s life in ten millennium.

I spy a chipmunk
shivering on a rock.
It takes a moment to doubt itself
then hustles back into its hole.


Drive through backwoods
on a winding gravel road.
Park by dead fields
of failed crops.
Wander up the pebble path,
stumble over the busted step,
pick your way through jasper vines,
pause amid weeds sprouting
through cracks in stone.
Don’t bother to knock,
just push aside the door
half off its hinges.
Enter the rooms
where a family dined,
a woman gave birth,
a man died,
and children played with wooden toys.
See the humble crucifix,
that still hangs above the mantel,
a benign-faced Jesus
looking down on a bed of fireplace ashes. 
Run your fingers over holes
where rough hands hammered nails,
scuff marks of chairs scraping hardwood,
scrutinize sharply angled wall joins,
like hands in prayer,
see the knots and grain 
in every plank of tree.
There’s a presence here
older than your time
and your mother’s time,
in fact, the time 
of everyone whose names
were taught to you.
It’s a breeding ground
for truths you believe in unaware,
for memories you don’t have…
they have you.

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