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.

The Maker

He was a creator of talent rare, whose works earned great reknown,

and jealousy in equal measure, from those much lower down.

He labored beneath a city vast, ruled by lust and grift and gun,

where much work was accomplished, to ensure little else was done.

Shortly, a savage band assembled, around the maker’s domain,

with precious little consistency, official concern was feigned.

“His wonders he shares not yet enough, and so unto the flame,

his worldly arts and life, to avenge the affliction of our shame.”

Loosed from the throng were feral cries, as the fire ate all away,

“The villain was at long last dead, the people have won the day!”

Yet months after that fateful encounter, without the maker’s sway,

confidence in the system’s operation began a sure decay.

Despondent, a former acolyte of the creator, sat a lonesome bar,

and drank in mournful silence, and dreamed of faring far.

There in the corner he spied, suddenly, a odd man, robed and pale,

who seemed somewise familiar, and so he gave him hail.

The stranger raised his head, and to the drinker’s great surprise,

found none other than the maker—xanthous luster in his eyes.

“Tell me, man, what are you, that could escape that fiery suit?”

The maker turned to the souse and answered: “I am absolute.”

Singer

by Gale Acuff

I love Miss Hooker more than I love God, 

I guess, which, I guess again, is a sin, 

but she’s my Sunday School teacher and she 

tempts me so I can’t help myself even 

though temptation’s not her fault and I’m not 

sure it’s even mine so I’ll blame God, He’s 

the One Who made us but if I’d made her 

I couldn’t improve on His work, red hair 

and green eyes and freckles, more than enough 

for three more people, maybe even more. 

Miss Hooker’s 25 and I’m just 10 

so the chances of us ever getting 

hitched are pretty slim but that’s what God’s for, 

making a miracle if I pray hard 

enough, and I could use Miss Hooker’s help 

but I doubt that she’s got it bad for me 

 

–she probably likes grown men, guys who shave 

and have hairy chests and legs and maybe 

backs, and hair in their nostrils and who speak 

like Father speaks, or God in the movies, 

in a real deep voice and even have jobs, 

money helps when you try to get a gal 

so you can pay for the hamburgers and 

banana splits and movie tickets and 

bring her flowers, which aren’t cheap unless you 

pick them yourself and then she’ll think you’re poor 

or maybe a little crazy although 

some gals like a-little-crazy but not 

Mother, she’s all business. I brought home my 

 

report card yesterday and made straight-As 

–I’m not bragging, I just know the system 

–and only one B, in Conduct, and she 

yelled at me, I don’t care how smart you are, 

young man, but if you can’t shut up in class 

good grades don’t mean a pecking thing. Father 

had to sign it because she wouldn’t and 

he didn’t even see it, the B, just 

said, Not too shabby, boy, not bad at all, 

and smiled and winked and I told him about 

Mother and before he could say something 

I told him that I’m sweet on a woman 

but I didn’t say who, or is it whom, 

just that she was older and he replied, 

Well, it might be a good experience, 

whatever that means. I think it means that

 

I’ll never snag her but I didn’t ask 

why because he was reading the Sports page 

and I respect that. Yes sir, I said. So 

I went back to Mother and asked her if 

she was still sore. Thread this needle 

for me, she ordered, rubbing her eyes as she 

rolled her chair away from the Singer. It’s 

on wheels, the chair I mean. Ezekiel 

is what I thought of and I’m not sure why 

but I threaded the needle and before 

she could say Thank you, so I don’t know if 

she was going to, I said it aloud, 

Ezekiel I mean, and she said, Damn, 

I pricked my finger, which was the first time 

I ever heard her swear but that’s alright, 

she was in pain and when I grow up I 

 

want to be a doctor and married to 

Miss Hooker and buy her a Cadillac. 

We’ve got an old Ford but it’s got four wheels, 

too. Father says, It gets us where we want 

to go. He has a way with words because 

he’s an Assistant File Clerk and sometimes 

when he drives off to work in the morning 

his hubcaps look like they’re spinning backwards, 

the car’s I mean. Ezekiel went up 

and saw everything and came back down 

but I forget what happens next. I’m sure 

Miss Hooker knows. I’ll ask her next week in 

Sunday School but if I forget I can 

always bring it up on our honeymoon 

if I get my miracle. If not, damn.

 

Mr. Acuff’s work has appeared in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo NickelThe Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.

Righteous

by Gale Acuff

I don’t want to die but I don’t want to  

live, neither, so what’s left I ask my Sun 

-day School teacher but she just folds her arms 

and shakes her head and frowns as she looks down 

on me, which she has to do anyway 

because she’s 25 to my 10 but 

now she’s looking even down-er and I 

feel even smaller so then I tell her 

that I’ll pray about it and next week when 

I’m back in Sunday School my attitude 

will be changed and she’ll be happy again 

but then she starts to cry–that should be me 

shedding tears and I’d tell her so but she’d 

say that tears are like Christ’s blood. I can’t win.

 

Mr. Acuff’s work has appeared in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo NickelThe Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.

Lot Less

by Gale Acuff

I’ll be dead before you know it, before 

I know it anyway and maybe then 

or I mean afterward I won’t know it 

at all, ditto death, I’ll be alive some 

-how and maybe waiting for another 

life-to-come, maybe another after 

that, but all I get at church is that we’re 

all in this for the eternal life of 

it, I guess by it I mean the life we 

know now which is at least one-half of what’s 

to be and probably a lot less so 

after Sunday School today I asked my 

teacher What if we die and there’s nothing 

hereafter but she just smiled and said Pray.

 

Mr. Acuff’s work has appeared in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo NickelThe Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.

Countdown to Darkness

by Carl Scharwath

Translucent and awake 

Lost in broad daylight. 

The sun will vanish 

Flickering, unseeing. 

Blurring at the edges 

Darkening, hesitant  

And shinning curious. 

The light evanesces 

In a trace of sadness. 

For how long  

Will a stranger stop 

In a different light 

As the end announced. 

Looking for landmarks 

Talking to himself 

At the edge 

Of the world. 

Insanity feels good.

 

Carl Scharwath, has appeared globally with 150+ journals selecting his poetry, short stories, interviews, essays, plays or art photography (His photography was featured on the cover of 6 journals.) Two poetry books ‘Journey To Become Forgotten’ (Kind of a Hurricane Press) and ‘Abandoned’ (ScarsTv) have been published. His first photography book was recently published by Praxis. Carl is the art editor for Minute Magazine, poetry editor for TL Publishing Group, a competitive runner and 2nd degree black-belt in Taekwondo.

Schismatic

by Gale Acuff

One day when I’m dead I’ll be dead but ’til 

then let’s say I’m alive and so I’ll sin 

whether I want to or not and sometimes 

I do, it makes life more fun and no one 

really gets hurt though I know that my sins 

will count up and then count against me and 

Heaven when I die and go there to be 

judged, which is why I think that Hell will be 

 

a better place for me, there sins count for 

more somehow, and so, ma’am, goodbye ’til next 

Sunday. And then I left my Sunday School 

teacher there behind her desk with her mouth 

open like the tomb that Jesus came forth 

from–I never said that I don’t believe. 

 

Mr. Acuff’s work has appeared in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo NickelThe Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.