Poetry from John Grey


She let the bird
out of its cage,
opened the window wide,
watched the creature
tentatively pace the sill
for a minute or two,
then fly away.

It was a parakeet
and only knew captivity.

It never occurred to her
that the bird would not survive
the harsh New England winter,
or that it was so tame,
it could hop up, willingly,
on a red-tailed hawk’s claw.

She imagined her own life 
within iron bars,
how she’d dearly love
someone to set her free.

She dreamed of 
something other than survival. 
Of prey animals
and all she had to give.


Early morning,
cocks stop crowing,
other birds take up the call.
A town awakes,
leaves the sex dreams in their bed somewhere,
pushes the fear dreams to the back of their heads.
Much shaving, face washing, coffee,
now the dreamer must go out and do it.
Work harder or less, steal or put back,
screw the neighbor's pretty wife
or demons in an office bathroom.
The light has moved everyone on from where they were.
Apology replaces act.
Honing in trades places with randomness.
It's to do with the brightness
and the stirring of a spoon
or the spray of hot water on the skin.
A scrawny rooster booted last night out the door.
Other birds feed on its flesh.
A town barks like its dogs,
purrs like its kittens.
Today, a bum could be the mayor.
A mourning widower might find a bride
behind that tombstone.
A shy girl will read Homer.
A boy from Brooklyn will go to Texas.
The rooster flops down from his fence,
double-trots to the barn
to rustle up some hens.
The birds are singing a song
that a clock taught them.
A guy says never leave me
to a woman who wasn't here before.
A child recites the alphabet
before the day knows that's how words are made.


One ugly toad 
on the banks 
of the small pond
was enough to send me
running back home.

My pond,
the one where I collected tadpoles,
was held hostage 
to that gruesome creature,
whose chief weapon  
was simply to be.

Cane toad,
that insidious interloper,
barely raised an eye 
in my direction,
as if it believed its own legend,
that one touch of its slick brown skin
would be enough to kill a grown man.

My mother tried to assure me
that they were harmless.
And in a way 
that strangers in vehicles were definitely not.

I might have dreamed
that, on my way to school,
a car pulled over
and a toad poked its head out,
said something like,
“Hey kid, do you want a ride?”

I didn’t.
But, for a time there,
my dreams were headed in that direction.


Marriage slowly evaporating
an emptiness at home
that not even a daughter can fill,
just like your dancing dream
faded when your father lost his job,
and now spinning round the room
clutching a wine bottle –
it’s not the same,
not while your back hurts 
from falling on the ice,
and his silence is like some intolerable barrage –
you still sleep together
but it feels like you’re in different rooms –
so much for the tango,
so much for expecting flowers on your anniversary,
you can’t even get tipsy –
and your thirteen-year-old is so busy texting,
sure, her life is going great,
she hasn’t grown older,
she hasn’t had to move around just to break the tension,
and she can get away with eating chocolate,
and wearing jeans –
you have to laugh,
at her age,
you could amuse myself by catching raindrops in your palm –
now you’re in company but alone
for no one can hear you,
as your confidence peels away,
you fear your slightest error,
for your mind’s a clearing house 
for all past mistakes,
and most of them are assigned to you –
and to think, you could have been a ballerina,
you could have learned tap,
you might have found the one thing you were good at
instead of the many where you just get by –
your dance, these days, 
merely wards off doing nothing –
it’s clumsy and misguided
and unsuited to applause.


is about remembering how it was, 
adventures in phone calls, 
a weakness sweet as early spring,
pulse in a swirl when it’s not tick-tocking,
the half-assed bringdowns of a true believer,
age of reason as proposed by a fourth grade teacher,
two bucks to mow a lawn,
farts loud and smelly enough to empty a building,
big words, small actions,
alone with an ache,
an idea in my head 
falling short of the mile marker,
stolen wine sip held long on the tongue,
briefly glimpsed nude painting in library art book,
some green and fungus-like stuff oozing from the nostrils,
an uncanny ability to be found out,
bowing head in grass with the animals,
quarreling with the word “no”,
diminishing belief in the efficacy of prayers,
any given weekend,
stuff that appears on the horizon,
upticks in knowledge, downgrades in cuteness,
tears fewer and fainter,
a liking for loud metal music,
(and loud metals as well),
TV-watching face supported by palms and elbows.
beautiful women -  who knew?
learning to be careful but not careful enough,
rushing in more than stepping away,
an inferior swimmer in a no-nonsense ocean,
singed fingers on just about anything hot,
the first bucket-list to include Mount Everest,
learning the art of unseen hands,
thwarted by the second chapter of an immense novel…
as if words would just roll down a window
and I could shove my tawny head through.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon
. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.

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