Wednesday, September 1, 2021




The Friday Night Poker Game


They gather around the kitchen table

on a Friday night,

puffing desperately on cigarettes

as if it’s the last place on the planet

where smoking is still allowed.


A wife made dip,

filled bowls with chips,

then headed for her mother’s.

The fridge is full of lager.

And there’s another case on standby.


They’re in their fifties.

long past their futures,

weary factory workers,

shop clerks, office nobodies.


Someone deals.

They all look gingerly,

then somberly,

at their hands.


Time will tell

if the cards are in their favor

more than the stars ever were.



Back In Comic Book World


The bath towel was my ultimate prop.

I fastened it to my shirt

so that it flowed behind me like a cape.

I could be Superman or Batman.

Or even Zorro.

Especially when I donned a cheap black

Halloween mask.


In my back yard,

I reigned supreme.

I rescued my sister’s dolls

from Lex Luthor, the Joker

and the Spanish in California.


I could fly over crabgrass,

scale a fence

and, with a stick in my hand,

vanquish the most artful

of El Capitan’s swordsmen.


But then I became a teenager,

an adolescent.

And none of my acquired skills

were of any help whatsoever.

I was just another useless kid

who, many the time,

needed rescuing by someone with super powers.


My mom was a nurse.

My dad was in middle-management.

And I was a skinny kid with pimples.

If those were heroes,

then their stories are yet to be told.


Bullet Proof Glass


Mather’s been in prison

and his clearest memories

are not the lousy chow,

the work making license plates,

or the killers and thieves

he spent ten years of his life

having to hang with

but the hour or so a week

talking to a loved one

through bullet proof glass.


It wasn’t like there was any threat.

He wasn’t packing a rod.

Nor were any of his visitors.

And his old mother

and ailing father

weren’t about to thump

a few guards into submission

and bust him out.


Maybe the warden just figured

that a touch might undo

all the work being done

to correct Mather

or, even worse,

a kiss could make him dangerous

to his fellow inmates.


Even now, he’s tentative

around others.

People figure the barrier

he puts up 

is just shame for where he’s been

the past decade. 

Only he knows what it really is. 


Light Reading


Night knuckles down to its task,

devours the mountains,

fills in the valleys

with its own brand of black.


It doesn't step around an object

like a current does a rock,

but swallows it whole,

the roads, the houses, the forests,



No need to wonder

if you're to. be spared.

It's already creeping up

on you from all sides,

including above and below.


For a while, you'll resis.t

with consciousness.

But, given the choice,

I'd recommend light.




JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and Held.

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