The End Of The World As Ben Knows It

by John Grey

The kids are shooting BB guns at a tin cans on a fence again. 
The old man is jumping up and down in his parlor, rattling the furniture. 
The woman’s tears are so heavy in her eyes that they bend her over, 
until it’s her greasy hair that’s mopping the floor, and her own 
body liquids that fill the bucket. Ben is praying urgently to God, 
throwing up his arms until they almost touch the ceiling. 
The storm is rising. Bullets firing, old man jumping, woman weeping… 
it’s all pail of it. The end of the world would always be an 
accumulation of small, annoying things. And this was them. 
Besides which, the toaster isn’t working. 
 

Meanwhile, the Antichrist is delivering mail to the neighborhood. 
Or he drives by in a milk truck. And look, it’s the four horsemen 
of the apocalypse… Shell, Walgreens, Home Depot, Burger King. 
Who doesn’t float up with the angels will bum in the coming hell. 
But then the kids run out of shot. The old man’s medicine kicks in. 
The woman’s phone rings. A short conversation ensues. She’s 
calm now. goes about her business. Ben thanks God for intervening. 
It’s not the end of the world after all. Just a preview. But the 
toaster still won’t toast and he can’t afford to buy a new one. 
But he’s sure the apocalypse can’t involve just him. This has to 
be an electrical problem that needs fixing. He must remember to call a priest.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. His latest book, “Leaves On Pages,” is available through Amazon.

In The Argument Stakes

by John Grey

The air is hot as the taste of chili 

and then chilly as its name. 

I am about to give way 

and yet my argument is strong. 

But the woman has nothing to do with strength. 

She is at the other end of the room, 

her eyes watery, 

her mouth fallen. 

I have to learn  

to use my facts 

without force. 

What another needs to know 

is not sacrosanct.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. His latest book, “Leaves On Pages,” is available through Amazon.

Her Children

by John Grey

Two girls, one boy, 

they shuffled down the stairs, 

crept like kittens into the parlor. 

In the company of her brood, 

I was afflicted with a shyness, 

that comes to the fumbling surface 

when one who has lived the years 

is in the presence of those who haven’t.  

My size suddenly overwhelmed me. 

In a room of children, 

I felt elephantine. 

I wished that she would stop what she was doing, 

come to my rescue, 

introduce the three  

like the King of Siam did 

his children to Anna, 

put names to faces 

then immediately dismiss them. 

It was, of course, 

a meeting from both sides. 

With me in the room, 

they surely felt like strangers  

in their own house. 

No false intimacy on their part. 

Their solemn, wide-opened eyes 

found no face,  

just years of my self-consciousness.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. His latest book, “Leaves On Pages,” is available through Amazon.

The Autumn Race

by John Grey

So why so many Autumn poems? 

The pastel colors I get 

but truth is 

the words are witness to a dying, 

trees drained of all reason for being, 

no more deep greens to match 

the true blue of the sky, 

no bustling nests, 

no juicy fruit, 

half the animals already 

burrowed into caves 

and the rest foraging and foraging 

for lesser and lesser returns. 

Poems are over-matched by summer.  

And every spring bud is another cliché.  

Only winter runs Autumn close  
but, ultimately, the thick white crust does away  

with details, and the poet’s forced unwillingly  

into his own ever-brumal psyche  

where it’s all January all of the time. 

Autumn, to validate Keats, 

is where beauty becomes truth, 

and a weathered loveliness 

tracks its own ephemera 

from branch to mulch. 

So why so many poems 

of transient beauty, 

inevitable fate? 

The answer is poets, 

change in weather.

Chill in the bones, 

and again, poets. 

Without Autumn, 

they’ve only themselves to blame.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. His latest book, “Leaves On Pages,” is available through Amazon.

The Far Orchard

No words scribe the horrid clime,

faintly traced beyond all time.

The sphere engorged, to ferrum falls

in versal forged, an orbit calls.

Rebind constraints to mobilize,

all that’s lowly steeled to rise.

Thence alight, the wasted womb,

swelling dark with seeds of doom.

In dauntless form, append the prize,

with soul aflame in punctured skies.

Petty treasure, won and lost,

let it be not over-tossed;

but stockpiled ’til the afterglow,

drawn with fervor, unsheathed in woe.

Armaments to reave effulgent fruit,

to hew the orchard, stem and root.

The Big Top

Gather round for the carnivale,

The clowns are jumping ’round!

A wolf, my son? Keep on looking,

There’s no grays here to be found.

The tiger’s stealth is superior,

And the horse has a far faster stride,

But both swiftly acquiesce,

To our gaudy troupe’s designs.

The bear may have greater ferocity,

And the tusker a more rugged hide,

But the wolf will not game in the big top,

To him, its a matter of pride.

Warm-up Exercises

by John Grey


When lovers argue 

the air gets it in the neck 

dreams are full of such crackling currency 

but when I awake I can’t spend any of it 

lost love is like eating alone 

in a restaurant 

sipping the last of the wine 

while fish bones stare up at you 

a statue is the last stop 

on a long journey of made-up stuff – 

this figure in marble 

bears as much resemblance 

to real flesh and bone 

as a cushion does to a razor 

there are no more stage villains – 

nobody wears top hat and tails, 

flicks their moustache 

while tying women to railway tracks – 

these days, it’s tee shirt and shorts, 

a day’s growth around the chin 

and a back of the hand 

slapped hard against a woman’s cheekbone – 

ah, Snidely Whiplash, 

at least, the boos rained down on you 

river’s frozen, 

roads aren’t plowed, 

can’t get out my front door 

for the drifts – 

War and Peace 

this could be the day 

of Chapter One Page One 

I must have loved 

a thousand women 

and I ended up with one – 

there are some instances 

where math need not apply 

there’s an article here 

about this guy who found his wife in bed 

with another man – 

he divorced the wife 

and married the man – 

and then it’s on to the latest peace talks 

for more irony 

1 made a few phone calls 

sent emails 

even wrote a letter 

but it’s the same old same old – 

you still can’t go home again 

my fingers look up from the keyboard 

ask then why have you brought me here.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review, with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Upon Your Arrival & Beyond

by John Grey


The people of America 

go crazy – 

from fishing folk of the Maine coast 

to the California 

surfing crowd – 

a baby emerges from a deaf-mute’s womb 

and it’s still not promiscuous 

or willing to kill for a living. 

It is watched over by old names 

and new slatterns. 

Character is born 

just like that baby 

but with its own blood spilled, 

not the mothers’. 

Being bathed continually in filth helps. 

Job or first love – 

numbing terror is not the same as emotion 

until it is. 

Sadly, a woman being choked 

to death by the rough hands 

of a stranger 

cannot answer your twenty questions – 

luckily, the default in every case 

is “false.” 

And then there’s marriage, 

a rash dash 

and without cash – 

three children are raised 

by the state – 

on a cross to be crucified 

as it so happens. 

So a house in the suburbs it is – 

but what about the hundred foot giant 

trudging through the neighborhood 

planting the seeds of strip malls?

A water-pipe bursts – 

the truth emerges – 

rats too can drown – 

they’re just not in it for the water sports. 

Everyone is ungainly at ocean’s edge. 

You toddle like you’re ten thousand pounds overweight. 

Fat red flesh predominates. 

You’re prisoner of the economic climate. 

If the deal falls through, 

you can always go back to bathing in filth. 

The mind fantasizes 

over hedge fund managers 

in a great Wall Street extravaganza 

that’s been sent to destroy you. 

It is only in secluded places, 

far from the trained eye of the television camera, 

where anything of sense is being said. 

And there’s nobody 

to speak up – 

and, to make things worse – 

the car’s not an automatic – 

at no time in your life 

were you instructed 

how to drive a manual. 


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review, with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Where I Live Now

by John Grey


I’m trying to figure 

what it is about this house – 

egg yolk sinks 

into a ketchup frieze – 

squashed ants line the sink, 

empty bottles vie with the half-full – 

I live between a thankless television 

and the doorbell – 

I sleep on an old couch 

with half the flesh torn out – 

wallpaper’s ratty – 

spit has congealed – 

excuse my appearance – 

I was up all night, expecting guests.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review, with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.