Monday, July 10, 2017

Poetry By John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.  


I found that romance
required a rich and vigorous vein
of artistry, virtuosity,
that peaked right at the moment
when true love came along
and killed it.

It was a magnificence
that I didn't see for what it was...

Now, in my memory,
I have a superb set of women
who could have been the one
but weren't.

Looking back,
I see in chat-up, braggadocio, gesture,
and some showboat dance steps,
the same telling gestures
embedded in the long history
of novels, painting, music in fact every art form -
including the circus -
tricks, gags, routines,
yes, especially the circus.

And now. the circus has left town.
Of course, the cleanup afterwards is amazing. 


I take a deep breath,
count to three,
then blow into the tube
until my face threatens to burst.
Lungs empty out
and the needle on the gauge
nudges its way hesitatingly toward
a passing grade.

Then, thanks to an octopus
with suction cup feet
and a meter for a brain.
my heart receives a glowing report.
As does my blood pressure
once that thin red python
is done squeezing my upper arm.

My blood has no dirty secrets to reveal.
My urine speaks well of me.
This grand tour of my body
stamps my passport for another year.

When I was younger.
there was no such thing
as an annual physical.
Life was stages,
not years.
And. barring a shot or two.
my body was its own doctor.

Now, once every twelve months,
I'm told that I'm good for my age.
That's like telling the dead
they're as dead as can be expected. 


Maybe go over to the other side.
They do have a swimming pool after all
and today could be as hot as a spa in Hades.

Or maybe get into klezmer.
Nothing like a cimbalom
to get the toes a-tapping.

I could join the Rosicrucians.
Do they still exist?
Or chain myself to the White House gates.
But first I need to figure
what I'm really upset about.

I could always build a doll-house
though I'm useless with my hands.
But that's the point isn't it.
There's nothing as enjoyable
as what I'm hopeless at.

I might go have a tinkle.
But that's nothing new.
Win, lose or draw,
I'd be doing that anyhow.

Perhaps I could find myself a platinum blonde
with eyes mountain-lake blue.
And we could go swimming together
except the pool is on the other side.
And I can't do two things at once.

Today could top ninety
so the weather channel tells me.
Doing nothing should see some action. 


A photograph of an oven
filled with charred remains -
you've stopped to see -
now how do you extract yourself?

Bodies black
like spilled oil hardened
to be packed in tiny coffins
and buried unknown.

No identities,
just waste collected -
you can only look away
but you cannot keep it confidential. 


You told me to watch out
because there were times you were out and out poisonous.
But I nibbled. I even ate.

And the longer we were together,
the more you declared that we were on
the point of collapsing.
I was happy enough to patch the walls, apply duct tape.

You were no great advocate of the future,
scoffed at marriage, often said that
no children in their right mind would want you as a mother.

To you, people were like a swarm of ants
attacking the one dead grasshopper.
You thought it crazy that one ant would take the time
to write a poem about what another ant is like.


Goggles in our eyes, bandanas strapped to mouths -
welcome to the desert.
Better a convoy stuck in sand though
than an air-lifted body bag

This is rehearsal, so they tell us.
That's why we're on this long road
and Blackhawks are flying so perilously low
I can almost reach out and touch the undercarriage.

Today's takedown is a triangle defense system.
An old basketball strategy from what I remember
though the scattered snarling spectators make it plain
that this is not our home court.

Win this game, so the generals tell us,
and it will be our salvation.
But war doesn't even play by its own rules.
I live with that like a parental reminder.

Our Humvee is stuck in the sand
about a hundred miles inside the Iraq border.
We have yet to fire a shot as we await rescue
and our next round of plodding orders.

Ticks nibble on our flesh.
Cows crisscross the road.
We're instructed to be as patient as monks.
Maybe we can inscribe the Bible

on the head of a pin while we're at it.
We're like actors, hungry for applause,
except we don't as yet have a play.
Then, when it does appear, our excitement

is tempered by the fact that
many of our characters die long before the third act.
Meanwhile, our job is to believe it's real
while we wait until it is.

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