Thursday, July 1, 2021





January On The Maine Coast


Along the rocky coast,

houses huddle

in hunchback hills

of scrub pine,

scattered here and there

like stationary flocks

or wisps of green cloud

drifting in place.


Now and again,

the contour allows for a beach

between cliffs of outcropping,

a thin strand of sand

that barely knows it’s there.


The weather’s bitter.

Only one man is out in it.

His head burrows into wind

as he trudges his way forward

on that beach.


Exercise or plain foolery,

I don’t know what drives him.

Maybe commune with nature.

Or madness near freezing.


Unlike a crowd,

I can make room for him,

in memory, on paper.


He’s just what I am looking for,

as I peer out the cottage window.

The scenery, his presence,

are words in waiting.


I write landscape in large quantities

but people in small helpings.



The Screams Of Children


After a drop from a suspension bridge,

Emma sank through the river’s slow current

to a bed of pebbles and sand.


But slowly the waters puffed her up

until she weighed less than the big stone

she imagined herself to be,


drifted o the surface, then started

a slow journey downstream.

She didn’t make it all the way to the bay,


but fell in with some rocks and reeds,

near where some schoolkids, on a field trip,

were digging about for the kinds of tiny lives


that would make their chaperone teachers proud.

But that wonder of discovery gave

way to sudden shock as one of them


accidently touched a pale white hand.

Hello, I’m Emma, said the face that rippled

up at them. I was just like you once.


I figured if I filled up my jar with dirty water

and tadpoles, that only good things would

happen to me. I’d be loved by everybody.


I’d be welcome wherever I set foot.

I’m sorry to tell you this but it didn’t happen.

Life is shit. Those little critters have it better than you.


Those kids never stopped screaming and sobbing.

It could have been the sight of Emma’s dead body.

It could have been what she said to them.





It was that innocent age

when girls were more

cypher than symbol.

Even my sisters

were neither beautiful nor ugly,

dull or interesting.

At best, they were nonentities.

At worst, in the way.


A girl was a whole other being.

They took refuge in each other,

had no spit in them,

were incapable of play.


There was no gazing in their direction.

Not then.

They were barely noticed in passing.


In class,

their arms shot up first

in answer to a question.

I’d know the answer,

but kept my hand on the desk.


In my first generous act

towards the fairer sex,

I gave them the satisfaction.



She Takes The Photo Down

From The Mantel


The photograph

is scratched,

blurry in parts,

but a treasure

to the trembling hands

holding it up to my gaze.


It was taken

in the nineteen thirties,

on the steps of the old house,

but new back then.

Just as the couple are new,

happy no doubt

despite the grim expressions.


It’s the only picture

she has of him,

she tells me.


Such a lilt to her voice

when she says it.

Time may pass

but it never gets old.



My Sitting


Then she gave me blue but not for my looks.

It was for the heart, the guitar, my fingers.

I thought her green would suit the vase

but no she said, I've a soul that needs a

more appropriate hue -right now, it's too white

for its own good. She gifted me purple

in patches, for no other reason that her good nature.

And she sent me yellow — bright and sun-like for the mind

not so I'd chicken out

at the first sign of her palette.

She took the black meant for my shadow

and had a shirt made from it. It fit me well.

Then came orange to swallow and red to bypass lips,

go straight for the words. When she was done with me

I felt colorful though somewhat abstract.

Still, I struck quite a pose,

was surprised she got it all on canvas.




JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and the Round Table. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.


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