Three Poems by John Grey


This Breakfast Question

His too-emphatic asking her to stay the night
hurried their relationship quicker than expected,
and now it’s his apartment and he’s still in bed
and if she just dressed and left
then what would that say about her?

It’s not her fault that he’s still in blissful repose.
like a child amid familiar things.
while she’s famished, can’t decide whether or not
to cook breakfast in his kitchen
or slip away to her own.

She tells herself she should be basking
in this new experience,
that the longer she hung out there
the more comfortable she’d be.
But there’s a little unexpected remorse to get over.
And how this morning was playing
with her sense of balance.
How could she lie side by side someone.
still and warm, and yet feel so out of step?

And what if she takes a coffee cup down from the cabinet –
is it a little bit hers, not totally his anymore?
How much of his life is in this chipped thing anyway?
And yet, surely his presence, his company,
is more than just his body, his muscle, his odor.

She’s angry with herself, then sick with tears.
She’d hate for him to see her this way.
It’s only breakfast after all.
But wait – isn’t breakfast a commitment,
the way sex is surely not?

He’s stirring.
She wonders how he likes his eggs.
For a moment, she can’t remember how she likes hers.
She has the kettle in her hand.
It’s hovering over the stove
as she remembers how snug she felt all night.
In bed, the decisions were made by instinct.
And, afterward, a lovely silence denied
any moment less than perfect.

But this is the light of day
and there’s movement in the bedroom.
“Are you awake?” she asks softly.
He does not answer.
She takes a deep breath
and turns the hot plate to high.
“I hope you don’t mind instant.”
she mutters to herself.
Grains fill the bottom of the cup.
So how does instant compare to percolated?
How does together compare to alone?

I’m No Business Of Yours

Don’t call.
I won’t answer.
Telephones terrify me.
A disembodied voice
is the last thing I wish to hear from.
One with a body?
Even more frightening.
So please,
don’t bother to knock.

I am a hermit by nature.
My tongue rebels
at the sound of someone else’s conversation.
My lips, my fingers, shrivel with contact
of a body part that’s not my own.

No. I’m not mysterious.
I’m just anxious.
Nor am I unkind.
It’s just that I’ve put aside
my kindness
for use toward myself.

Yes, I do go out.
But only for provisions.
And I wear invisible blinders,
talk to no one.
hear no one talking to me.
So, whatever it is,
keep it to yourself.
You’ve clearly earned it.


The Laundromat’s Role

This is a city.
There’s many more people
that I don’t know
than those I do.

There’s not much I can tell you
as I’m sitting on a bench at the laundromat
reading a year old Sports Illustrated
that threatens to fall apart in my hands
while half-watching familiar clothes
take on unfamiliar aspects.

To my left,
a Latino woman sits,
People Magazine on her lap
but her eyes elsewhere.
On my right
is a black woman,
humming her way
into her own subconscious
as the bulb above
spotlights her forehead.

We must look like some singing trio
put together by marketing experts
to appeal to the widest possible audience.
So how did I get to be lead vocalist
with these other two as my backup?
The Latino woman’s cycle is done.
She slowly, methodically, transfers
her drenched belongings to the dryer
and then moves to another seat.
The group breaks up
before we get our first booking.

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.

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