A Poetry Showcase from John Grey

photo from unsplash


I love ships. I love true super liners.
I love all thirty-one thousand tons of the Lusitania.
I love its four funnels, steam turbines, 
that quadruple screw, the 25 knots at which
it traverses the water.

I love the Vestris though it’s only a single-stacker.
And the Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft
because its someone’s name, 
a name I would be proud to bear 
if I was making the Amsterdam-East Indies connection.

Of course, I love the L’Atlantique
because it sounds as French as coq vin and Andre Gide. 
It’s a dreamboat with insides that can’t decide
whether they’re Art Nouveau or Art Deco.
I just love dubiety in a ship.

I even love the President Hoover 
though Hoover himself is tough to like.
And the Paris…ah the Paris…
Moroccan décor, such fancy glass and metalwork…
if she was a woman I’d…but she is a woman.

And the Empress of Britain –
glamor and the Brits, 
an unheard-of combination and yet…
And give me the Bremen any day,
though it started out working for the other side.

I love the Viceroy of India – so exotic.
The Rex – those Italians sure do know how to
concoct a lido.
And the Empress of Canada, a little cold at first,
but eventually as warm and comforting 
as anything out there with a twin screw.

And then there’s the Andrea Doria.
I simply love the Andrea Doria.
If I ever met someone called Andrea Doria,
I’d propose on the spot.

And just because every time, I said her name
it would conjure up visions 
of her graceful lines, exquisite shape, 
and so smooth glide across oceans.

And yet all of my loves are dead.
Some blown up in warfare.
Others destroyed by fire 
or wrecked in a collision.
They lie on the seabed
or have long been scrapped,
their parts reused or discarded.

But I still love to stand 
atop the Newport cliffs
and look out to where 
my refined and nimble, 
elegant and exquisite lovers run.
I do not love death.
But I love whatever it has to show me.


There was a time
he lit a cigarette  
the moment his eyes opened.
Before coffee.
Before shaving.
Before his shower.

He’d totter downstairs
trailing that tiny glow,
his face a cloud of smoke.
He’d puff between sips of java.
The razor would have to cut its way
around the dangling Camel.
He didn’t smoke in the shower
but there was always a lit one waiting 
on the sink.

He’d smoke in the car 
on the way to work.
Even in speeding traffic on the highway,
he’d find a way to light another.  
Butts littered the floor.
Ash dropped like fall leaves on his shoe. 

His hands, his teeth,
boasted a permanent yellow stain.
But he never shook hands, never smiled.
He was too busy getting his nicotine fix.

He smoked during meals.
He smoked watching television.
He smoked just before bed.
He even smoked in bed,
singed his lip more than once.

In hospital, 
he had to sneak a cigarette.
When that didn’t work,
he puffed on the tube in his mouth
and imagined.
On his last day,
he begged the nurse 
for one more cancer stick,
the first time he had ever used that term.


The moon lurks high above the town.
Its indifference is a thing of wonder.
It saw the boy leap but after that…nothing.

The woman with her apartment window wide open
only thought she heard something.
A guy working late in his fish store 
figured it was some louts dumping garbage.

The surface has settled back to stillness.
Trees stand tall, even in shadow,
prime examples of long-lived lives.
Only the willow droops in sympathy.

The moon settles into a slow arc,
dispenses scattered light
that illuminates the bridge, darkens the waters.


Another climber dead on Denali.
So the highest is the deadliest.
Mist lifts.
Mountain emerges.
For a moment I can feel
the lofty aspirations.
Don't try for that summit
and you may as well
be a convenience store clerk
in Anchorage.
The vista may be heaven
but the story is human.
Had to do it, planned for weeks,
nothing would stop him.
Lost his grip, fell from a ledge,
took a week to retrieve his body.
The news is stunted
like tundra spruce,
the implication as long as the days.
There's a risk
even to paradise.
Bui the death's more certain
in what might have been.


she brought home
folded cash
in an envelope

every note 
carefully allotted
for food or rent
or utilities

with a few coins
tossed my way
for pocket money –

she never held
a check in her hand

I never paid 
for anything
with paper –

we were poor –

we had the money
to prove it

Bio: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, 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, Rathalla Review and Open Ceilings.

A Poetry Showcase September 2022 with John Grey


So many tornadoes
that year
like they were having 
too much fun
turning the sky green,
ripping roofs off houses,
juggling cows and horses
and trees and tractors,
flattening and raising,
killing or sending 
a warning signal –
you won’t be so lucky
next time.

Saw the footage later on the news,
after we slunk up from the basement
to a house still standing:
great grey syphon,
barn corkscrewed,
car spun like a top.
A telephone pole 
crushed an old lady
while she was calling her daughter
in Omaha
though there was no film of that. 

And some guy was discovered
in the canopy of an oak –
still breathing –
and a trailer came rolling 
down the highway sideways
with the family inside
on some crazy fairground ride.   
They made it out okay.

Tornadoes are like
the big kids in school
who think they’re playing
when they grab you by the throat
but really don’t know
their own strength.

You try to avoid them.
It’s like trying to avoid air.

                                                      Page One
morning has been through similar
but as night disperses
it figures maybe it can do better than that

           even without another living soul

then the coughs and the spit
and the insane laughter

	clocks move just rapidly enough

and the coughs and the spit
crisscrossed with stupid tears
	dawn’s this Yeats’ trimeter 	

: recited in small chunks
: as much about a sea-lion as the sea
: a clunky Buick or a daffodil – take your pick
: a very normal happening in the guise of a coincidence
: a float in an endless parade 
: like a ghost moving through a refugee camp 

	light stops to meditate on a window-pane	

I am in Chile
in a breathless town 
high up in the Andes
and, from every vantage point,
I see enormous mountains
reaching to the sky.

	there is enough outside for me to sit by a window

no snow
just a fine kettle of green
interspersed with some brown
some purple

	keep the eyes steady and the landscape takes care of itself

even as the clouds sweep away.

	breakfast tastes flame-cooked

                                     Page Two
mine is a favorable gut-wrench
a heart
flattened by a thunderbolt
of sight and sound
	eggs like the hens laid them special
coffee that’s a story-teller
head a boisterous mix of hydrogen and oxygen
thoughts that grow more visible with every sip
and despite the zigzag scar
a belief that there is no pain

travel’s a feeling like no other
even the silences enlighten me
but the Andes go one better

fresh sound wind
think I’ll take a stroll 

infinity redux


Standing behind the yellow tape
as the body is pulled from the river,
the crowd directs its attention
less to the corpse
and more to their own inner natures,
their reaction to all the phenomena
they observe in their daily lives
that doesn’t concern them
and yet, has an effect, nevertheless.

Not even the intervention of more cops 
in cars with sirens whirring
can interrupt the flow 
of visual response and ego,
anomaly and individuality.

What is one person’s tragedy
is a metaphysical state 
for so many others,
not the rescue team 
pumping the chest futilely
or the forensic experts 
gathering evidence 
but those with no role to play
other than to assign 
their visceral reactions 
to the correct feeling. 

Yes, to some, 
these onlookers may be ghouls.
But by necessity, I’d argue.
As a process of learning 
more about themselves.
Otherwise, it could be them
behind hauled from the water.
And who’d be left
to stand behind that yellow tape.


shaves her legs,
	on hot days
	lathers her skin
	with sunblock,
is on time
most of the time,
	remembers to
	water the flowers
	and spray perfume
	on her wrists,
is often too good to be true,
	doesn’t make much
	of her Irish ancestry,
can be glamorous
but mostly looks practical,
	can be detected
	but not always deciphered,
can leave my mind fidgeting
and my heart reciting Swinburne,
	loathes drama,
	adores love,
is often seen by the pond in the park
explaining to ducks that she 
hasn’t any food for them,
	or at a musical
	singing under her breath,
or trailing behind a guide
through an old historic house
to learn how people lived
	or laying roses 
	at her father’s grave,
while all the time
answering to her name
when I call it
	but never to the word


He turned on the television.
What the family would be watching this night
was decided long ago.

The tenseness shrank away from the room
to be replaced by a cold air of resignation.
It wasn’t the easiest oxygen to breathe.
And talking was impossible.

Then having chosen the program of his liking.
he turned toward
the ones occupying the couch and chairs.

The screen came to life
but his audience seemed
like corpses in its pale blue light.   

BIO: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Ellipsis. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Washington Square Review and Red Weather.

A Poetry Showcase for John Grey

photo from Unsplash


She was jealous
of Amanda’s perfect skin. 
And the way she wore
the highest heels imaginable
and yet never lost balance.
not even on the slippery dance floor.
And then there was 
the woman’s slimness,
her waist as tiny as a doll’s.
Even the vision
that she just knew
would never need glasses.
And the perfect rosebud mouth,
tinged pink with lipstick,
many times kissed
but many more times 
on the wish-list of 
every guy she met.
Amanda’s crown never
knew the meaning  
of a hair out of place.
Even the wind was 
on her side,
tossed her fringe
gently, alluringly,
from side to side,
to save her the trouble
of doing it. 
Amanda’s teeth gleamed 
like she was the star
of a toothpaste commercial.
She was no glass-ceiling buster.
Worst of all,
Amanda was forever in her thoughts.
She had jealousy for neurons,
constant synapses of frustration.
There was no cure. 
Amanda could only sigh,
“ah, if only Amanda existed.”


Glaciers crack like 
the world’s weary knees 

while suburbia’s backyard
is plagued with bee corpses, wizened crickets –

bergs melt,
fuel a creamy red ocean
bursting its banks - 

sun can’t help itself,
melts and scorches
despite its legendary indifference –

buildings split like axed trees,
a hungry desert feeds on
the jungle at its edges,
cantankerous plates shift below –

the religious prepare 
to be whisked off to heaven

while a child burns
in the fire 
of her father’s sins.


I was too young to be on my own

hence the baby sitter
who, I'd heard, had no boyfriend
was considered safe
by my parents –

seated cross-legged on the floor

I watched her fat hands
manipulate the channel changer

from cooking shows
to soap opera reruns
to a thriller with loud music
and then a cartoon

that inspired me to shoot up my hand
and scream out "yes"

but she blinked right by it

finally settled on a mushy romance -

she side-wiped my complaints
with "it's time for you to go to bed anyhow"

so I slunk off to my bedroom
though I didn't want to

and she got caught up in something
of which she had no personal experience -

so I dreamed
under protest

and she dreamed
because what else was there. 


I have my dark days, my dancing across
the polished floor days, my emaciated days,
and always, of course, my glittering
sun on snow days.

There's days when I can charm
the bell off a bicycle,
and others where I merely am,
in the background somewhere,
counting down the days to the next day
that wants to have me in it.

There's days I can't get out of my own head.
And other days I barely notice I'm around.

There's days I want out.
And days I want to stay in this forever,
even if it's just the day that I'm in.

I experience days when I float with the crowd
and days when I'm brazen enough to raise my hand high,
announce myself to my audience.

Some days are relative.
Others are intuitive.
1 can get as much out of one as I can
but leave the next to its own devices.

And then there's these years
that gather up the days like fish
on a long, long line.

And beyond that the lifetimes
that cook and eat that catch.

Some taste good.
Others have no taste at all.

And then, at the end of that meal,
I rub my stomach.
Or I rub me out.


I could have been big, he says. 
Big as Elvis and the Beatles. 
Just didn't get the breaks that's all. 
I've still got a voice better 
than three quarters of the ones 
you hear on the radio, see on TV, 
and I'm fifty four years old.
And I could play guitar, really play.
And I could dance too.
I should have moved to Nashville
or to L. A. or to New York
when I was younger.
I'd have made it.
I'd be worth a billion now.
He works the night shift,
restocking shelves at K-Mart.
I see him through the window now and then.
Kitchenware or sporting goods,
he's got all the


14 across I get
but 14 down eludes me.
It's a five letter word
and I have three of the letters.
How difficult can it be?

It's like your moods.
Your 14 across I welcome,
literally, with open arms.
But your 14 down
had finger rushing to head
for more infernal scratching.
And I think 1 know you
so why won't any letters fit.

But I’m the same.
My life is 95 percent 14 across
but that other 5 percent
starts at square 14
and down we go.
So how can 1 blame you
when I'm no different?

I have the whole thing completed
but for these two damn squares.
And we'd get along perfectly
but for two other damnable squares
that neither of us can figure.

Crosswords and cross words...
the word "puzzle" doesn't even come close.


all the lightning in the trees
sears and steams
the rainfall 

all the jag in 
the gray swirling sky
makes whipping boys
of branches

all the air
and whirled
cries out in raw pain -

but if you can feel beyond
and battered trunks 
and splattered roots

there’s a magnificent release

the wetter the better 

A Fevers of the Mind Poetry Showcase for John Grey

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.

A Fevers of the Mind Poetry Showcase for John Grey

wooden house grayscale photo

photo by Chris Grafton (Unsplash)

Trailer Life

Eleven at night.
Four squeezed into the living room
watching a tiny black and white TV.

The fifth is outside,
cigarette in one hand,
beer in the other,
leaning against his pickup.
while he and a neighbor
go at it.

"If I see you near her ever again."

"You'll do what."

"You just think you're tough."

"Why don't you try me."

One gets up to adjust the antenna.
Another says, "Get me a beer while
you're up."
The third's half asleep.
The fourth is snoring.

The fifth stumbles in,
his tongue still cussing
behind him.

Door closed.
Everyone's accounted for.
Outside still hums with anger.
The inside sits on blocks.

Three Kids in an Old House

We found this abandoned house
in thick steamy summer woods,
its outer-walls unpainted and rotting,
the roof overgrown and sunk in parts,
every window shattered,
and the front door swelled out of its frame,
cocked to one side.
It was surely haunted, even at high noon,
for the dark air inside
seemed to have nothing to do
with what we had been breathing outside.

Tentative steps took us through the threshold
into a room containing nothing
but an old upright piano.
I ran my fingers down its keys.
For every ringing note,
there were five dull clunks.
The noise scattered cockroaches.

We summoned enough courage
between the three of us
to investigate the kitchen:
a rusty sink, a square of faded linoleum
where a stove had been,
and a small, empty refrigerator,
surrounded by water stains.

The bedroom was a cave of dust and spiders
and a shed snakeskin,
shaped long and slithery enough for imaginations
to shudder at the withering gaze of absent eyes.

We'd seen enough.
That this was once a family home
never entered our minds.
We figured no one ever lives
in such fearful circumstances.
A naive assumption on our part.

The Young Arsonist

He wanted to set the school aflame
but all he could achieve was 
to set fire to the contents 
of a paper recycling bin.

He felt like a ping-pong ball
being battered back and forth
by two different civilization.
Fire, to his way of thinking,

was a citizen of the world.
His parents called him a problem child.
Their parents reckoned him abnormal.
The cops never mentioned rootlessness,

just a warning for the future.
The flames, the heat,
gave little back to him.
The brief happiness seemed futile.

His father lectured him on being
proud of his ancestry, 
added that they only moved 
to this country 

because he couldn’t make 
a living back home.
The boy had been proud of the fire
but his father was right.

It would never be an ongoing concern.
He still wanted to set the school aflame
but he continued to attend classes.
And learning poured water on everything. 

Many Webs on the Trail

Past the lines of the old stone walls,
between two long standing oaks,
the flutter of nerves stops just short of the flutter of web,
strong in the wind, a spider 
holds captured prey as much with its eyes
as any gossamer.

I brush the gnats from my face
but that’s not what changes the mood to savagery,
why it’s suddenly colder, silent,
from the dark core of my brain to my nervous fingers,
my stuttering feet on the trail down to the marsh.
And what of the pathless thicket?
I’m terrified of what might be lurking there.
Ticks, more spiders, snakes…
I’d be such an easy mark.  
No, nature’s not something to rush.
And these filaments across my path
can’t be torn to shreds with the wave of a hand,

The air is chilled. 
The sky is fishing for a way in
between the treetops.
Everything cast shadows.
Not just the pines, the maples.
But the maze of death that flutters before me.

I somehow sneak my way around this web
only to be confronted by more of the same farther along.
For all I know, this could just be one giant construction
spread throughout the Autumn woods.
Half-erased lives cling to its sticky filigree,
maneuvering for a position. for a freedom
that is no longer possible.
It’s their dying that makes the living visible,
their struggle spun across the path ahead
that pulls me back to where my beating heart is waiting.

I crunch on twigs.
The sound is like the snap of carapace.
Blue-jays screech at my presence.
Don’t they know that I’m the good guy here.

Regarding the Afterlife

Last night, in a close gathering of folks
at my apartment, a writer friend
of mine claimed to have all the facts
regarding the afterlife.
"The soul catches the first plane
out of New York for Tibet," he said.
"But the soul's not traveling
to the high country
to make nice with the Dalai Lama.
Being so bodiless,
it's finally able to cash in on
that latent love of winter sports.
Now it can ski down Everest,
skate across the icy plateau."
'"Is there a God," someone asks.
"No," he replies, "only a slalom course
at over twenty eight thousand feet
where the thinness of the air
doesn't bother man's essence in the slightest."
I ask him what such an eventuality
does for all this "meaning of life" talk.
His response was that "the meaning of life
is bobsledding from the top of the world
down to its very pits
only without a bobsled."
"But what about religion?" somebody asked.
"Religion is a bobsled," he replied.

Death Watch

Emma is certain she will die today.
The mirror reveals a woman almost dead anyhow.
She figures maybe, with the right undertaker,
her face will look more lovely, more serene,
in the coffin than in reflection,

She examines her belly - the perfect target for a knife.
Her mouth opens wide - now there's a well
for dropping many of the pills in the bottle on the table beside her bed.
And look at those white wrists -
the optimum hunting ground for a ra/.or and a steam bath.

Self-destruction, she figures, is the perfect antidote
to what she's seeing in that mirror.
Now which are the mushrooms that dabble in death?
And where's the most likely place in her garden
for a rattlesnake to be coiled and ready to strike?

She’s weary of hearing it from people.
The falsity of so-called lovers cuts
but it doesn't go deep enough.
And her family are no use:
she doesn't measure up
and yet they still refuse to bring her all the way down.

Let them find her lying in her own blood.
Or contorted like an Indian rubber man
with a face a standard shade of blue.

But Emma is also certain that
her certainties are thin as skin.
She'll get through the day, the night,
and the next and the next.
Her death watch requires a lot of patience.
A life is a long, long time.

Bio: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, 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.