john grey

three poems

Walking Home Late at Night


Welcome to a nightmare

of tar and concrete.

It’s the way home.

Wind’s blowing sweet

     but it’s a pathological liar.

I part ways 

with streetlamp shine,

take a short cut through an alley.

     Disturb a cat.

     Step over a sleeping drunk.

The city feels old and ruined.

Not even the neon

is bright enough for magic.

     And it’s eleven at night.

     No matter your street-smarts,

     you can’t know it all.

This is a neighborhood 

where I could just as easily disappear 

as make it back to my third floor apartment.

     Who’d know?

     Like who’s the guy

     on the motorcycle that zips by,

     his face encased in a helmet?

     He could be a gal. Or a ghoul.

In a dream, he’d be someone I knew

from long ago.

     But not in this place.

     Not at this time.

Bar noise keeps me company for a block.

I tell some hooker I have other plans.

A pusher rises up out of a man-hole.

A junkie descends the same way.

     A panhandler thrusts his sign in my face.

     It says he’s ex-military.

     He’s now in the homeless army, he says.

     This street is his commission.

Shadows are longer here.

Threats come prepared with silence.

Footsteps don’t add onto themselves

     like they do in the daylight.

They separate, stand alone.

Are more vulnerable that way.

And hell on the people making them.

And thoughts join in,

give aid to the enemy.

    Like a crazy with a knife

    could stab me.

    Or a mugger take me down

    with a gun.

That’s what it’s like when a place

won’t spread out,

just closes in.

For you can’t rise above a city.

You can only sink down into it.

Very little is at eye-level.

The rest must be seen with the gut.



How It Is With You

you claw at bed sheets

you don't eat

you think it's unfair

you want to tell 

your visitors to fuck off –


you’re trapped by 

your body’s inability to heal -


you’d rather die

than keep your carers in business

How Can You Be This Sweet? 


You're joking, right?

You've just found

a different way

to be like all the others.

Scratch your soft skin

and there's a hardness underneath.

Bust open the cache of

your truthfulness

and lies tumble out.

Confess you're not my lover,

you're my poisoner,

that when the world goes to war

you're right there with it,

loading up the tanks,

mounting the cannon.

Sure, you're curled up

in my arms

but aren't you really out

there somewhere

robbing banks,

pushing old ladies down

steep staircases?

Of the many millions,

there's just one

that I want kissing me

so how could it be you.

Maybe you're just

filling in for her.

Maybe you had to kill her

to take her place.

24 February, 2021

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest book, “Leaves On Pages” is available through Amazon.