Three Poems by John Grey

sc june 18


Today, any day, we would rather be dead.
No one can answer the question –
“What’s living anyhow?”
The world’s response is this place
where we can safely
bore ourselves to sleep.

Our ambition is to be honest with ourselves.
We really would rather be dead.
But we’re too lazy to misappropriate
all this semi-precious blood.
So we moved into the neighborhood
just to put you in the mood.
And yes, for your information,
we can talk…
that way you won’t confuse us with the cemetery.


the serene
where clouds underpart
and suddenly
all doors are open
from hard rock to angel wings

the ecstasy
of the spoken road
the ringing handbell
the silver sheen
of the floating seraphs –

but then there’s the trespasser
power and money
anything to sully the golden beam
like diamond doorknobs
platinum locks and chains
pistols and truncheons

drained of music
all urgency
all the time
on the line

no wonder
I can’t get through


The bearded lady’s chin growth,
the alligator man’s scaly skin,
the geek’s live chicken appetite,
the Siamese twins,
the guy with the pointed head –

they’d long passed into history
by the time
I attended my first carnival.

Cotton candy on a stick
was the closest I ever got
to a freak show.

It tasted sweet enough
but I could believe it
with my own eyes.

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

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?

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