Saturday, April 1, 2023



A Shot In The Dark


He said the guy was beside him

until all of a sudden…

He stopped hearing the other footsteps.

But he kept on moving.

That was the way it was done.


But crouched in the compound,

he kept expecting this guy to return.

He didn’t.

Not that day.

Not the next.

And not on any day thereafter.


He listens to the sound of the sea.

He loves its roughness

but the calm will also do.

And the sight of the full moon

is a pleasure known only

to wolves and returned soldiers.


He’s a stargazer.

In fact, if it’s big enough

or far far away,

he takes comfort

in how it got there,

the little or the much

that it does.


But if it’s close,

it needs to fall into step.

If it’s close,

it needs to get closer.


Sweet Smell And Aftermath


Achingly sweet smell of love,

  too bad I am dead already,

  not yet born,

  or merely a child

clutching the steering wheel hard with tiny hands.

collapsed in the driver’s seat,

navigating through this difficult world,

where traffic congeals

in every dimension –

even here, in this ridiculous state of affairs,

even knowing what I know.

including what’s unexpected –

love with its bizarre, painful fragrance:

grasping, holding,

though eagerness has left the room –

I haven’t met a law of physics yet

that didn’t block my way,

prevent me from being where I need to be –

all stop-and-go

until finally, on the tenth go round,

it’s all stop –

can’t resist

the rust, the salt,

of another person's tears

rolling down my cheeks –

in other life,

we might have raised raise wide-eyed children,

danced the rumba until all hours,

but self-pity pours concrete on the heart,

and anger is a leopard that bites its own paw –

and here’s me, a pleasant, ordinary man,

and you, somewhat immaterial,

but still pungent after all these years,

and weird sometimes –

          like a rose in winter

          with improbably thorns,


          how a flower can get happy –

yes, we woke up alive this morning

but we may have already been killed.


The Mushroom Hunt


When my mushroom creel is full,

I retrace my footsteps through the woods

to my kitchen where, like the mad professor

of fungi, with magnifying glass

and trusty guide book, 1 assign each

and every one of my beauties

to their true identities -

a stippled orange fly amanita

that's more deadly than a widow spider,

the bell-shaped ink-cap,

lap-dog friendly.

Sometimes, as it is with the fairer/deadlier sex,

it's difficult to resist the very beautiful,

the pale pink flesh, such sexual softness,

even knowing no good can come of it.

But I'm still here aren't I.


So far, my selections have been good to me.

My bountiful harvest

is narrowed down to a small mix

of absolute certainty.

I place the smallest of caps

on the tip of my finger,

navigate toward my lips.

Finally, finally, after all this,

I get in my first nibble.

What began with the day beginning

is now on my tongue complete.


At The State Fair


We wander through the sheep barn

where the animals rest peacefully

but the dust and the odors do not.

Let's face it,

they're really just wool

in sheep's clothing.


Next up is the cows,

their udders

filled with milk

for consumption by

other than their own.


At least they have it better

than the snorting, curly-tailed pigs.

They've nothing to give

but their hides


Not a week before.

I ate a pork chop

in gravy with mashed potatoes

and cauliflower.

And still a sow looks up at me

with the kindest, friendliest of eyes.

She has no idea that I'm the enemy.


Then it's front row

for the horse judging.

How proudly they step around the ring.

I just hope their ears don't pick up on

those glue factory rumors.


It's time then to buy tickets for the midway,

wallow in the guilt-free world

of humans doing wild, outrageous things

to other humans.


And, of course,

we munch our way through

the mandatory candy apples

and clouds of sugary pink floss.

But at least, we bring diabetes on ourselves.

It's not what we're bred for.


My Family Pacific


We're descended from the ocean, he says.

So this is more than just a stroll along the beach.

Say hello to your briny family tree.


And that's not a tide-pool. It's a gene pool.

So the crab, those minnows -

are they from my mother's or father's

side of the family?


I have to admit the water soothes with its coolness.

And, out farther, sun on surface

makes for a glittering jewel box.

But walking with a scientist has its downside.

Germ-plasm theory lies uneasily beside

bronze beauties on the beach.


But for a mile or two along the shore.

I can live with Darwin, Linnaeus and Lamarck

and their learned say in my ancestry.

Sea air clears my head ceaselessly.

No laws of organic life stay for long,


Meanwhile, waves retreat, leave a wake

to be pecked at by plovers.

So which of my ancestors

was food for what sea-bird?


I've no idea where we come from

but the sea's as good a place as any,

the surface tranquil,

incessant rhythms underneath,

the foam at the edges,

even that crusty taste of salt.


I may even go in swimming later.

What's a family reunion

if you can't make a big splash.




JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.

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