Poetry Showcase: John Grey (April 2023)


My present, my past, can barely spell each other.
American cooking dominates my table.
My accent wavers like an interrogated con.
It’s Fall, not Autumn, 
and the trees are undressing outside my window.

And where are my cricket flannels?
And the Merino sheep 
my country was once said to ride upon?
Or the eucalyptus (California excepted)?

An immigrant –
it’s like being dropped down 
in the middle of a baseball game,
and in swim trunks.

I'm done in by everything from foliage to friends.
The woods are the domain of blue jay, cardinal and woodpecker.
And customs don’t take kindly to my enquiry, 
“Why are you doing that crazy thing?”

And what’s with all this flag-waving.
Like Thackeray’s Becky Sharp,
the country needs to be adored.


I didn’t lay the asphalt 
or paint the lines down the middle,
or engineer the whole thing 
so that it was straight and flat in some places

and up and down, 
twisting like an adder in others.
And it wasn’t me  
who drew the county boundaries,

established the towns,
put up the signs for everything 
from maximum speed 
to “Bridges ices before road.”

I’m the guy behind the wheel,
windows down, hair blowing back,
foot on the gas, accelerating.
I didn’t cut the ribbon,

or open the highway to traffic.
I was just the one
revving and shouting out,
“Thanks, I’ll take it from here.”


Here is the site of the auction block.
Some people came with bills of sale then.
In the museum, I see a faded photograph
of black troopers.
Some of the books I’ve read 
are already coming to life.

I stumble on brick sidewalks
but am raised to my feet 
by sounds emanating from a Gospel church.
Talking of lemonade,
does it ever taste better than when 
it’s ninety degrees out.

Statue of a Confederate soldier.
His fate is being debated in the letters page
of the local newspaper.
Barbecues spring up like mushrooms.
Sauce is lathered on like red shaving cream.

Crows in their mortuary garb.
Lamb on every menu.
Fiddle-head ferns waving 
when they’re not near fainting from the heat.

A row of Georgian houses
shaded by live oaks.
Running, darting children. 
in their yards.
Dockyards bustling but slower
than up north.
Man on the river bank alone with his tackle box.
An Italianate theater preserved from the Civil War Days.
A painting of Robert E Lee in the window of a pawn shop.

Some guy laughing for no reason.
A woman with a racoon on a leash.
An old guy in an Allman Brothers t-shirt.
The smell of chili.
A salty breeze.
And then back to the auction block.
I saw some of what’s happening.
I started and ended 
with what must never happen again.


Everything flourishes,
even the weeds 
that edge the borders
where garden and grass divide,
accompanied by bud and limb,
scrawny flowers flexing their stamens, 
and the beginnings of shade,
	occasional insect eruptions
	to disturb the glory,
a swallowtail freeing itself at last
from the cocoon,
	another insect swarm,
	like morning haze
	at nightfall,
a man on his knees wielding a spade
at a time of unobstructed, uninterrupted growth,
days no longer hiding in the dark
	but stretching out,
	repairing winter’s glaucoma-clouded eyes,
so everything is clear, distinct, and individual,
	except for the insects
	who move as one
	across the hedge-top,
no more blearing adaptations needed,
forsythia, roses, no longer need be modest,
	can host those incessant insects
	for a time
	and emerge unscathed,
for beauty, from the subtle to the voluptuous,
is now the easy part,
blooms in all the colors I’ve been missing,
	for as windows open,
	yellows and purples do to,
though the house is screened
but outside, everything’s admitted.


On dying streets, the people congregate. 
There's no life in the houses. 
The stores are boarded up.

But on the crowded corners, 
inside and outside the barber shop, 
folks laugh and joke like breathing, 
smoke cheap cigarettes, 
pat the cheeks of babies, 
reminisce on the blazing history 
of a burnt-out three story tenement.

The neighborhood has to get together
or there is no neighborhood.
Street signs wither on their vine.
Empty lots are like cancer cells
threatening to spread.
Everyone's bitter at the lack of jobs.
The work gets to choose
and, these days, it's looking elsewhere.

But there's no hello 
that doesn't want to be there. 
There's no goodbye 
that leaves more than it stays.

Sure there's gangs. 
And there's drunks. 
And there's junkies. 
But the good survives 
so the bad won't have to.

Bio: 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.

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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