Thursday, April 1, 2021





Solitary Man


Another night of this…I look over

to the other side of the bed…nobody

…in the morning, none,

hope clouding the sheets with dust,

my fantasies dream forever,

but live so brief a time.

I emerge from the blankets,

the dying behind me. At dawn

each eyelash bristles from its lid,

and a splash of water on my face

concedes my solitude,

helpless and begging for a solution –

yes, I am being emotive today,

in the kitchen, in my blue pajamas

no one sees. I make coffee.

I blow the webs away so the spiders

can begin again.

I slowly waken to my normal self.

I wear it well. I wear it as long as I have to.

This is my family home.

Every inch is known to me but to no other.

And it’s summer. Hundreds of invaders

but none that I wish would stay.

The sky opens like a great mouth.

I look in the mirror.

The face is mine and will stay mine.

There’ll be no new skin.

There’ll be no one touching it.

No milk-white toothed smile

so I won’t recognize myself.

How I yearn for the company denied me.

I’m out of my head, wishing for someone

to rescue me from this restlessness,

whose lashes I can part from

deep, inviting eyes, one by one.

I yawn. Show the cereal my gums.

Soon I’ll be dressed and out the door.

I’ll be among people

but apart from them as well.

That is another situation I cannot bear.

The loneliness of crowds.

I’m, in the meantime, waiting for someone, anyone

All theirs, as far as it goes.

All mine, beyond that.





She’s not what you’d expect.

A sweet face, pink straw-colored cheeks,

offset by a hot, moist gleam to her blue eyes.

Nothing haughty.

No sense of entitlement.


But she lives in some fancy house

that the hills look like they just gave birth to.

And a guy has to cobble together an excuse

just to get by security.


For she’s the offspring

of professional people.

I can’t match incomes.

Luckily, they don’t get poetry.

And there’s always my wits to get by on.


She takes me on a stroll across her lawn.

It’s the color of bright new banknotes.

And every room in the house

is dominated by wrought-iron chandeliers

with bulbs like bunches of grapes.

The furniture is dark, ancient,

arranged like a museum diorama.

If I scratch anything, our love is dead.


It’s dead anyway.

As dead as the old dark pictures

that hang on every wall.

Mostly family members.

Ancestor worship.

Eyes staring me down as if I’m not worthy.


But damn you, Gloria.

If your body ripens anymore, it’ll be fruit.

And your beauty is as healthy as it is wealthy.

My mouth is impatient.

I could kiss you right here in the foyer.


But then grandma descends the stairs,

wheezing, looking and sounding

like an angry ghost.

She warned me that the old lady lives many removes from reality.

Gloria doesn’t understand that, in this house,

I have more in common with grandma

than I do with her.


I stay for awkward lunch.

When I leave soon after, I walk briskly enough

but my feelings are immobilized.

I doubt if I’ll be invited back.

Certainly, I won’t make the first move.

Her arms, her mouth, her life,

are all designed for someone on the way up.


It is a done business I tell myself,

when I arrive back at my dingy apartment.

My self-worth is not diminished at least.

Only its spending power.




Art The Mailman Sees Mrs.

Hitchcock Motionless In Her Rocker


Rocker not rocking.

Silent porch suddenly

on another planet

from the fence, the street.

I could have been

the one who found her dead,

playing a role in her history

I did not deserve or want.

Might have dropped the letter,

lifted up that empty head,

one eye on her lifeless body,

the other on the irony

of the name and

its abandoned address

fluttering at my feet.

Could have been thanked

by her family, her friends,

for calling the ambulance,

the police, as if, somehow,

not being in time,

was perfect timing.

Think of it, me,

still in uniform,

at the funeral,

fingers pointing,

a twilight full of whispers,

"He's the one who found her."

Luckily, she was

only sleeping and

I slipped the mail

in the crack between

two drowsy fingers.

She held that gas bill tight

and let me go.



How To Get There From Here


The other world is set like stone.

Machinery and top floor offices for ear plugs.


A lover sprouts heat, burns herself.

A man's mistress is his bank balance.


The other world is set like assets.

Billionaire's clubs and boardrooms.


Fat cats have nine lives and then some.

Milk in a platter and a helicopter at dawn.


The other world is set "like faces.

Old and landscaped and Florida bronzed.


It's a consumer economy so consume them.

Spit out the bones, sell them cars.


The other world is set like Who's Who.

Marie Antoinette says, "Let them eat newsprint."


Tax cuts for the rich.

Paper cuts for the working poor.


The other world is set in wine glass.

Floats in martinis, in private bathrooms.


No other way for Gods to look but down.

The people are like fire-ants. Fire them.


The other world is set in gold teeth.

Corporate box and condescension.


Like we're any better.

Poor in substance, rich in ideas.


The other world is set in old money.

Tortoise beats hair but heir's another story,


If only, could be, damn my luck.

What'd my old man ever do but expose himself.


The other world is set in silence.

Don't say a true word or the cretins will hear.


Oh yes mother, cry for your starving children.

The tears of today drown the leaders of tomorrow.



The Failed Navigator


It's getting dark

and the trail is telling you

conflicting stories.

You try to work

with, the compass needle

but you're hapless.

The merest warbler

soars above your petty anger,

can't imagine how a fellow creature

does not know where he is.


People said you were crazy.

Take a map, they insisted.

And three friends, even better.

But you were determined

that magnetic north was here before Google

and would be around

when that search software

had long been dumped in the Internet trash bin.


You call to say, you'll be late getting back.

You lie when you add that

your flashlight is weak

and you can't see the damn compass.


The truth is people live

within the boundaries set for them.

They're seldom asked to navigate.

So at certain points in your self-discovery,

uselessness sets in.

You find a cozy spot,

sleep the night through

then, come morning,

climb the highest hill

to see exactly where you are.


You swear off compasses from then on.

You never leave home without the highest hill.



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.


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