Poems by John Grey


Everything in life
is a shock to her.
Providence is a shock.
It was never on any of
her girlhood maps.

And a house is as weird
as Baron Ensor’s paintings.
She paints in her spare time.
She too would have used
the Ensor metaphor
had she been writing this.

Suburban was never
the bad word it was to others of her ilk.
But it still sounded like Swahili.
As did fence. And lawn.
And any garden that
wasn’t in a window.

She never thought she’d marry
a man with a beard
who writes well into the sloppy hours of morning
while she’s lying on the bed,
shutting down her temples,
shuddering her eyes.

She imagined by this she’d
be a starving artist,
shivering in cold wind
outside a down-city bus station,
with no money for a fare.

Instead, she forgoes a new book of poems,
pressed upon glossy paper
to struggle with the lid of a jar,
feminine., spectacular, tough
and in as good a place as any.



Down the street, I’m sure they make love
like pounding clothes on rocks.
I reckon it’s so physical,
they can’t get past their bodies.

How much gentler here,
and yet more robust than the sunset.
Your skin like cloth selects itself
to complement the twilight.
It is young and altogether holy,
constancy embedded in desire.

Must stop thinking of men and women
comparing their bodies in rooms south of here,
pounding their beds to pieces like rutting dogs.

It is sweet, this silence.
We have not chosen to be harsh,
or cruel like fish flapping in a net.
We touch soft, almost poignant.
In our ocean, sea-life swims free.

The sun’s gone,
likewise the great, euphoric madness.
This is the sweetest time –
no sex left and both delivered
to each other’s arms.
Perfect, I’d call it.
You remain virtuous.
I feel pure, a light inside a stone.
Meanwhile, down the street,
they’re at it again and again and again.
What else can go wrong for them?



The cops never came once to interview my poetry.
The August 1996 issue of a litzine could have
have told them everything they needed to know
but they searched her drawers instead,
looking for the diary she never kept,
the letters no one ever wrote.

The cops made sure all the blood in that room was hers.
Those copious red stains…like that’s all blood is.
And they held up the razor to the light
But it wasn’t the light the razor needed.
They even called in the medical examiner,
the poet laureate of wrists and veins and steam.
But his work was not for public consumption.
And mine is in the pages of a book.

I dug out the evidence as soon as I heard.
There it was, between odes to cities from the air7
to sex, to forest walks and drunken nights…
what a woman feels and the way that I report it.
Any fool could pick this out of a lineup.
The killer confesses in every line.
And they wonder why she didn’t leave a note.
How many notes does it take to change a light bulb
in some dumb sergeant’s skull.

But cops don’t believe in art.
And how can you even believe in people
when all you know are dead ones.
So come look at this,
you ignorant minions of the law,
page after page of nothing but proof
So you have a corpse…
well what you have is nothing.
I have her living.
That’s always been my alibi.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and Sanskrit with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Owen Wister Review and Louisiana Literature.

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