The Works of John Grey

John Grey is an Australian born poet. His work has been recently published in Oyez Review, Rockhurst Review and Spindrift with work upcoming in New Plains Review, Big Muddy Review, Willow Review and Louisiana Literature.   


All Poems © John Grey



She's been a dying swan,

a spreading fire,

a tree waving in the wind.


Her long swaying arms

have played neck and flame and branch.


Her twirling, high-stepping legs,

dazzle the stage

with toe-tips.

Her face

is stillness to the core.


That body is a story-teller.

But blank eyes divine

that there are no tales to tell.


The weariness,

the hardship,

the sacrifice -

all held hostage

by choreography.


And music of course -

ransom notes

demanding pain.



I call as requested.

You're head down at the kitchen table.

You lift your face toward me.

Expressionless — where's the expected pain.

You've locked yourself in where you are right now.

All destinations are forbidden.

So why am I here?

To hand the floor over to someone living?


I put the kettle on.

Someone has to.

I dig your cigarettes out

from the malaise that is your pocket book.

I don't like you smoking

but doing nothing causes another

even more virulent strain of cancer.

Coffee and gray smoke -

they struggle to be an improvement.


Conversation starts slowly.

The past is freshness plus regret.

The present can't be bothered.

The future's making plans without you.

My situation's little better

and yet I've learned to specialize in,

"It's not as bad as all that."


I'm here to filter out the bad days.

My job's to hold you when you say his name,

to keep your bones from cracking,

to make you believe in a life you don't believe in.


Upstairs, there's a boy

who believes he's Spiderman.

Down below is a web with no center,
just something trapped and floating at the edge.

I'm a super-hero. I'm just another tangled bug.

We ramble on together. We bite each other's tongues.


For Angela


So she's having a baby.

The telephone's having a ringing fit.


The future has shown up

in her stomach of all places.

The one who will outlive us

is already scratching and kicking its way

out of being a stranger.


So excuse me while I prepare

the world for its arrival.

Green grass, clean air,

maybe a mountain or two,

nothing like scenery

to rattle away in the crib.


And how would it prefer

its politicians?

Honest or in jail?

And what about its wars?

Over there where others

do our fighting?

Or here at home

so it can see?


No need to save the newspaper headlines.

I'm sure this child will have enough banners

in its lifetime

to wallpaper ten thousand bedrooms.

For every grinning uncle,

slobbering aunt,

there'll be ten earthquakes,

fifteen famines, eight coups and a plague.


And the telephone won't stop.

There's another generation.

This is what people really need to know.

Maybe it's the one that finally gives a damn.

Or could be it will just say "dada."

And to the face on the TV screen.


Light Work


Light is out to make mischief.

It courses through the trees,

obscuring my neighbors.


It streams into the kitchen,

glows in every silver spoon,

imitates God’s plan.


In Summer, it makes the hot hotter.

It moves in after a thunderstorm

with a glazed “I told you so-”


In Winter, it’s bright and sharp

as a razor cut.

At night, it bleeds from bulbs.


Even at the earth’s blackest,

light has metaphors to go on with.

Supposedly, there’s a way to see it


even when the head’s as fogged up

as a fishing village morning.

I close my eyes


and dreams make it available.

I’m a light sleeper.

But not enough to shine.



There was very little love in their marriage.

Maybe here and there some ritualized lovemaking

but that's a whole other story.

It was just a coming together of two people

with some inherent comedy, the odd dramatic possibility.

If it was a film, no one would have watched it.

They tell me it was entered into in good faith.

Just as I figured - good faith was to blame.


At least without love, romantic feelings were never an issue.

They could cook, chop wood, iron and build bookcases without interference.

And they could get intoxicated when necessary and not spill any secrets.

And even have children, love all three of them (that other kind of love)

in lieu of depression.

The best thing was they could talk freely with one another

about hemorrhoids or garbage or leaking taps

and not be disappointed that the subject wasn't roses.

They stayed together for forty years and then he died

which didn't seem so important to her.

Had she truly loved him, she'd have gone fruit-bats.

Instead, she muddled along that limited road to her own destiny.

Her funeral notice said, "Flowers are fine but please, no trumpets."