Poetry from John Grey

WATER

So this is what 
we need to survive.
I’d have said blood,
the red stuff that gushes out
whenever I cut myself.

But, if water it’s to be,
then at least I can turn on
a tap anywhere in the house
and it does flow.
It even flushes.
And it spins like crazy
in the washing machine.

I do drink the stuff 
from time to time.
Like a penance.
For the stuff is the ultimate
in tasteless.

But the flowers seem
to like it.
As do the birds.
And it keeps me clean.
So it’s definitely 
a player in my love life.

And I must confess
that I have this
romantic attachment to rain.
Inside is never cozier
than when it’s pouring 
on the outside.

My lover and I 
sit by the window,
watch it bucket down. 
We sip our wine
in full view of the weather.
A great Chablis gives water 
something to aspire to. 



CURFEW NIGHT				

Real Gothic night.	
Cops are circling like vampires.
Kids are in their virgin clothes,
t-shirts, jeans, grins on faces,
dirt under nails.
Transylvania Main Street.
Ignore the Hardware store,
the McDonalds, the movie house
showing adult romance.
Be afraid. Tremble.
Feel your clothes on your skin
and your skin on you.
You're on foot, in summer garb,
even though the knives of Autumn are out.
And the cops are Winter grim.
"Why aren't you at home?”
The river's gray and sour.
Lights betray the garbage of civilization.
A bar shakes like ice in a glass.
Here men gather for protection.
The grim adulteress approaches
each in turn like a song from the juke-box.
Cheap lyrics are Shakespeare to a drunk.
Cops don't bother them.
With the right uniform, the perfect fangs,
drunks could be cops themselves.
But the kids are without rooms,
without ceilings, alcohol, cheap talk
and last year's orgasms.
They're as vulnerable as burgomaster's daughters
in the twilight woods
crossing the shadow
of the crumbling castle on the hill.
They try for the rhythm of grownups
but end up darting here and there
like sting-less wasps.
Any lighter and the breeze has them.
Any smaller and they fall through
the sidewalk cracks.
Meanwhile, Dracula has had his donut.
Count Yorga has parked and dozed enough.


Time now to sate the hunger	
or push some weight around.
"Hey there. What are you up to!"
Kids stop in their tracks.
The cops’ “Go home”
is up-close and sharp.
Kids feel like 
they’ve just been bit.



JOSEPH

Joseph was as slow at realizing the truth
as he was getting up in the morning,
and, even when he did arise, 
his brain took its time registering 
the purpose of all that surrounded him
from the ceiling to the walls, 
to the floor, the stairs and the coffee pot.
And that’s why he didn’t realize, until midday, 
that his wife, Anita was not in the house.

And then, only at twilight, did Joseph
find the note she’d left on the sideboard.
He didn’t read it until it was time for bed,
when he was so drowsy, 
he had a hard time deciphering
the meaning of “I’ve left you.”
And her mention of another guy, Andrew,
who was twenty years younger,
had him shaking his head,
and saying, “I don’t know any Andrew.”
He fell asleep without even noticing 
there was nobody under the sheets with him.

Joseph dreamed that night of a tennis match
where his opponent was a much younger man
named Andrew with a strong serve and wicked backhand.
The only one in the stands was his wife.
Andrew totally destroyed Joseph in straight sets
and the victor flung his racket high in the air in celebration 
then ran off the court and into the arms of Anita.

When Joseph awoke next morning
and, after his mind and reality got in synch,
he looked in the mirror at a plumpish, 
long-faced, gray-haired reflection,
muttered to himself, “Joseph Andrew Sullivan, 
you’re sure not the man you used to be”.



IN TERMS OF AUDIENCE

Far out in the waves,
you screamed 
as an undercurrent 
took hold of your foot
and pulled you under.

Flapping arms 
and kicking feet
propelled your body
out of danger
and into calmer waters.

As you coasted on a wave
back to shore,
you began to imagine 
throngs of people
awaiting you there, 
welcoming you back to life.

But fat man on the beach
was all who noticed you,
and not while you were 
in danger,
only as you made your way
out of the waves,
and strode up the beach.

His belly was 
bright red and as round 
as a prize-winning melon.

You envisaged it
winning the blue ribbon
at a harvest festival.
You wanted to applaud
but you checked yourself.



JAKE AND THE CIGARETTE MACHINE

Jake needed a cigarette badly,
so he put his money 
in the nearest machine,
though it didn’t carry his brand.

But when he pushed the button,
nothing happened.
It took his cash all right
but no pack popped out below.

“Damn,” he cried out  
before waylaying some guy 
who worked at the place.
“I don’t got the key,”

the employee said.
“Write down your name and number 
and I’ll give it to Artie
when he comes by next Tuesday.”

Jake was in a rage, grabbed the guy 
by the collar, screamed, “I’m dying for
a fucking cigarette!”
“I’d give you one of mine,” said the other 

through his violently restrained
vocal chords. “But I don’t smoke.”
That’s when Jake clocked him
in the jaw, then grabbed the 

nearest thing to come to hand,
a fire extinguisher. flung it 
at the cigarette machine
with such force, the front 

caved in, cracked open, 
spilling cigarette boxes everywhere.
Jake breathed a sigh of relief.
Violence had been good to him,

calmed his nerves, satisfied cravings.
He left without taking
the freebies scattered across the floor.
He no longer needed a cigarette.


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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *