Sunday, May 1, 2022





Who believes a premonition?

Who is so afraid

to step out the door

that they shut themselves inside the house,

neither answering phones

nor knocks on the door?

Eyes closed, hands over ears,

doesn’t that make the vision

of the car swerving onto the sidewalk,

the stranger with the knife,

the block of stone toppling from the tall building

all the more likely?

Outside, nothing bad is happening.

Inside, you’re stuck with the belief it will.


You Get What You Pay For


I once drove this crock of a used car.

It wasn’t old enough to be antique,


nor new enough to be road-worthy.

The driver’s side door didn’t open.


The floor was as rusty as a redhead’s hair.

And the engine made a noise


like a winch dragging a jeep uphill.

It leaked oil, gushed water,


spat and sputtered,

rode like a baby buggy over rocks.


But it got me from A to B

for all the time I poured no money into it.


My friend called it communally abhorrent.

I called it something quite different


when it conked out on the highway.

But the wonderful thing was,


I’d bought it so cheap,

I could tell the tow-truck when it came,


that heap’s yours.

Some folks can’t face up to the fact


that you get what you pay for.

I relished the fact,


vowed to pay even less

       the next time.


Your Beaten Track


You’re always in an inner tube

rough-riding the raging river,

the same swift stretch over and over,

keeping your balance again and again

and do you still cruise the thermals like a giant bird?


You’re unwanted by your eldest daughter,

the youngest is having second thoughts,

and the one in the middle sends you a migraine via ESP,

as your wife is buried in St Mary’s cemetery

right where your life left her.


You’re up for any shoot-em-dead with slingshots,

or chili cookoffs, jeep safaris,

domino tournaments at the Knights Of Columbus,

fly-fishing, jack-jumping,

and anything that requires excessive drinking.


Your family are either afloat or afield,

smoked by the window

or stuffed inside old photographs –

the doctors are amazed by the strength of your heart

considering you don’t have one.


Eva And I


She told me not to write a poem about her.

Her self-loathing feared a few lines of verse.


And even talking was difficult.

She bowed her head

as if her face was in the way of words,

muttered through strands of red hair.

my conversation was a string of “um”’s and “er”s.


We got together eventually

but more like the last two people on earth

than young romantics

flashing eyes at each other.


She with her freckles,

me with a shyness

as cruel as a lisp.


We even found happiness

but more like the absence of sadness

than anything resembling joy.


We shared cinema dates,

fast food meals,

but not dances,

and never a car front seat

parked by a lake late evening.


We each, in turn,

didn’t believe the other

could really be interested

in whatever was behind the spots,

the sheepishness.

We felt like a couple of defaults,

like the married pair of slobs

who lived in the house next door to mine,

who were much too fat to be in love.


We grew apart eventually.

She matured into an attractive young woman.

I became more confident in myself.

We might have even made the perfect couple.

Except we’d been the imperfect one already.


Poetry Reading –

We’ve All Been There


Hemorrhoids – the curse of the middle-aged poet

according to the guy at the microphone.

No matter. Even a sore ass warrants a clap.

They even clap for a poem about the clap.

A young woman reads likes she’s grasping for air.

Morbid stuff.  Razor on skin material.

Then, when she’s done, she’s crumples up her work

and tosses it at the audience.

They don’t bother to dodge her pain

but keep right on applauding.


But no one’s work is as raw and bloody

as the framed wall on the print behind.

It’s a Goya. Saturn devouring his child.

Even madam self-immolation can’t compete

with that, not even if she sliced off

her fingers and toes.

As for the usual drones, they don’t stand a chance.


Open mike is like open wound.

But it’s also a favorite dog’s funeral

or a litany of treacherous sex partners.

Some lines get written down so

they won’t be forgotten.

Others because they never even happened.

But mostly, imagination takes a back seat

to emotional airing cupboard.

The audience doesn’t seem to mind.

They’re poets themselves.

They clap for what it takes to stand up front

of this literary AA meeting.

Maybe they add their own name to the list.

Maybe they’re a little too frayed

to take such a frightening step,

prefer to watch others

do open-heart surgery on themselves.


Afterward, there’s coffee

and someone’s bought along a cake.

Everyone enjoys these offerings.

But nobody writes a poem about them.

What can I say? I’m part of the same crowd.

Poetry’s what we throw up

not what we swallow.




JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.

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