Tuesday, September 1, 2020




You were wearing your cotton blouse with the Renoir print.
It was of a young girl braiding her long red hair.
She looked so unlike you, except for the paleness of your skin,
hers Parisian white, yours New England pale.
You asked me if I was a fan of the Impressionists.
I knew the names but the paintings not so much.
Had you told me Degas did haystacks
and Toulouse-Lautrec was known for his ballerinas
I would have believed you.
I had a copy of Camus’ “The Stranger” with me.
The least I could do was flash it like a calling card.

My first time in your house, your mother
sat by the stereo, listening to Strauss…Richard not Johann Sebastian.
Without being asked, I luckily guessed right.
Your father was in his study, bent over a typewriter,
writing up some scientific report.
I was happy to leave him well enough alone.
My intelligence was having a hard enough time
making it through the arts unscathed.
The sciences would have totally derailed me.

You were the first girl to present me with evidence
that cuteness and books on a shelf were not incompatible.
You read. You attended galleries. Your nose was small and curled up a little.
In your presence, I spent as much time catching up as growing up.
With you, I mastered the art of kissing.
But I remember more the art than the kiss.

Third Love

Of course, I was thankful to be loved.
The affection you afforded me
embraced such a precious time in my life.
And I was willing to share in return
my feelings, my sensitivities,
everything I could possibly give.

But there’s no point raising glasses to it now.
We’re both much older
and possessed of the good fortune to be living.
But where I am, night arrives early
and not with the expectation of the old days.
And I keep my life down to a whisper.
That way the darkness will not know I’m here.

My so-called formative years are in debt to you.
The memories are not as coarse, as meaningless, as trophies
but they are highly prized.
But any welcoming you might imagine is a lie.
My porch light doesn’t shine.
My curtains are drawn.
My door is bolted.
A lonely soul sends no signals.
They merely emboss his faded thoughts.

Yes, there was a time, I would
have been grateful for your company.
But only as another voice,
one that could recount the past
but make no attempt to revive it.
Those days travel in their own time.
Wherever they end up, my heart is not there to greet them.

Beneath dark and solemn branches
and the languorous drift of sky,
I am both primitive and content.
I took my own path.
No doubt, you followed your own.
Don’t think that you are not wanted.
But if wish to know it, that’s fine with me.

The New Lover

effects the break
with all
outward manifestation,
sets itself to the task
of establishing
within two people
a structure
that accommodates
the most sensitive
of mutual feelings.

I had been interested
in the purely
visual sensations
of another -
what nature hath wrought
in other words -
I am now occupied
with the various forms
beauty takes
beneath the surface
as I struggle
to analyze and assimilate
more complex attributes
than soulful eyes
and kissable mouth.

To summarize,
momentary appearance
is pure accident.
So I take a different view,
love what I see.


I lie awake
at the edge of the infinite,
head fitted neatly on
the folds of my hands,
black sky through the flaps,
stars twinkling
their pre-scientific bits of knowledge.
I fall asleep,
camp out in my subconscious.
Eyes close,
body rolls over.
But the view is the same.


JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review.

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