Friday, September 1, 2023



Marge In Ward C


She is both sick

and homesick.


for the return of her own bed

and dew on the willow leaves

in the early morning.


for the photographs

from a magic age.


for a time when she could forget herself,

know only others.


for the struggle

that came down hard

on the day to day

but left her body alone.

She’s sick of what remains,

homesick for what is gone.


The Photos On The Bookcase


On my bookcase,

pressed hard against “I, Claudius”,

is wedged a photograph

of a young man in a bathing suit,

his muscles black-and-white,

a humorous bragging

lighting up his eyes and lips.


Below, between Salinger and Saroyan,

sits a snapshot of woman,

in a floral dress,

her hair tied back,

lovely face staring into the sunlight  

through my study window,

a quiet confidence

to the slightly-parted mouth.


Perhaps, they ponder the future,

the one that is already over for them

and now part of my past.

At least, they seem so assured

that there will be one.

Only I know there was.

Only I keep them looking toward it.


An Evening At A Wake


His body falls through my fingers.

Eyes rob me blind.

That mouth is as slow as a cloud in a painting.


Meanwhile, tiny conversations sprout

in tones so low

they suffocate in thick carpet.

Family and friends,

enough sorrow for everyone.


His suit is as gray as the weather to come.

And that tie would choke him

if he wasn’t dead already.

His Sunday best is like nothing

he ever wore on the sabbath.

Even his clothes deny me.


If the priest is right,

he’s risen from his tired body,

a beam of light

embraced by the almighty glow.


If the priest is wrong.

I’ll have to carry him on my back,

up that ladder to the sky.


But how that’s possible?

His body falls through my fingers.


Belize City


I look out the window of my hotel room,

observing Belize from high above.

as I see without the pressure of being seen back –

the attractive young women in their multicolored dresses,


even the man of prominence who strides beneath my window in a tall white hat,

and the old lady who hides her face behind a fan, her beauty behind the years,

the white tile now gray, and the young man strumming the guitar,

a song of love that I cannot hear but which, no doubt, has its reasons.


Four or five you boys – I try to hear what they are shouting.

And a dreamy eyed fifteen-year old girl. 

The outdoor cafes of course. Drinks already being served.

And the hotel opposite, white with green trim.


A couple on a third-floor patio cool each other with wine.

A dark-skinned lad flashes his pearly white teeth at a juggler.

Some stalls set up.  Food vendors. Lace sellers.

And is that a clown painted like a mishmash of Central American flags.


It’s the heat of the day and some rest against the walls,

take shelter beneath their eyelids.  

I make plans to immerse myself in the plaza.

The tourist in me could use the break.


Pouring The Tea


Though your musings have become

as heavy as rocks,

and the years have grown dense

inside of you,

and blood no longer fills your arteries eagerly

but oozes like marsh waters,

and your nerves respond to stimuli

as infrequently as buses show up at the stop

to take you to your doctors,

it's still you laying out the teacups,

cream and sugar, and offering to pour.


The pot you've carefully nurtured

with steeping bags

and steaming hot water,

is like a trophy for the times

you still can lift those rocks,

expose a thought or two,

and your body shakes off

its drab fixation with time

and the life flow's not so turgid, mired.

that it can't follow the course set for it

by a pattern of genteel heartbeats

and your tongue can savor

the flavor from your favorite Ceylonese leaves

and announce to the world,



We sip, we talk,

and it's like payday for memories.

You stow your complaints,

come down on the side of the good times.

And you do pour my cup

even though your hand is as shaky

as a poster in the wind.

All of this aging has conspired

to rob you of who you once were.

And yet, you don't spill a drop.

Your life, for all its ailing,

still doesn't begrudge you.




JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Rathalla Review. 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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