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.

In My New England Home

By John Grey

Damn. I’d have to really hate myself

to believe she’s never coming back to me.

Look in the mirror and throw up.

Smash in my skull with a hammer.

But I’m merely waiting here,

as stoic as Zeno of Citium.

 

So she left without a word.

And I find nothing to console myself

in the sun-burnt reds, the crepe-like yellows,

of Autumn. In fact, I long to shake

every tree in the yard, the neighborhood,

the forest, so their leaves come down

ahead of time. Stark trunks and

gutted branches – that’s my motto.

But she’ll return. It’s too lovely out

not to.

*

John Grey is an Australian author, published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty, currently residing in the US.

Interesting

By John Grey

I use that horrible  

coward’s word “interesting” 

to describe your painting. 

Bad move. 

Now I have to find a way 

to fire myself as art critic, 

be hired on as lover. 

 

To be honest,  

the canvas looks like  

an unholy mess  

of blotches and streaks, 

scrawl and scribble. 

But that’s an opinion 

best left to a bitten tongue. 

 

But, despite my imagination’s 

best efforts, 

the positives aren’t coming. 

Wonderful contours,” 

A strikingly personal gesture.” 

An infinite labyrinth  

of pain and joy.” 

A volatile language 

of image.” 

 

In fact,  

my brain is, at the moment,  

this unholy mess  

of blotches and streaks, 

scrawl and scribble. 

So maybe my mind 

was your subject matter. 

Mm… interesting.

*

John Grey is an Australian author, published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty, currently residing in the US.