Poetry: Selections from John Grey

The Chair
There's always a kid
who dies unexpectedly.
He collapses on the basketball court
or he's hit by a truck
or some morning, he just doesn't
get out of bed,
not then, not ever.
There's always that first lesson
in "this is death",
long before you have a clue
what that means.
And it's someone you don't
know all that well
although now there's
this empty chair
and you can relate to that
more than when he filled it,
always turning around to stare
at the place
which provides no answers
to any of the teacher's questions,
that makes no sound,
not even a scraping.
And then some other guy
scrapes his chair.
You don’t look at him
but the chair where
the dead kid sat.

The Beautiful Smoker
She dismissed the cigarette butt
with a flick of her fingers,
and it flew five feet or more
before landing on the sidewalk,
dying with a dim glow
and a puff of white.
For a moment,
I forgot all about cancer
and nicotine patches
and emphysema
and endless coughing fits
and every association
between cigarettes
and diseases or death.
I was even willing
to be disposed of
so emphatically
just so I could burn
and smoke
in her lips and lungs  
and nostrils
for as long as the fire
held out.
Instead, I merely muttered
something like,
“You know cigarettes
can kill you.”
She sneered in my direction.
For a moment there,
I was the more toxic alternative.

Necessary Steps
She waited,
marked time
while the man she married
was in the ascendency
and not the man she feared.
No way
she could chop away
his warm touch
at the wrist
or jerk out
a kindly-worded tongue
with pliers.
She would save her arsenal
for when he richly deserved it.
And those soft blue eyes.
How could they ever be
a target for her crossbow?
Or the firm chin.
Destroying it
would be like taking an axe
to a Michelangelo.
So she decided that
if he ever hit her again,
she’d just leave him.
If apologies tried to stop her,
she would shoot her way out.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, and has recently been published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. His latest book, Leaves On Pages is now available on Amazon.


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