Poetry: Selections from John Grey

The River in These Parts
Cold mountain stream
becomes brown factory sludge
as it creeps through
the withered gray light
of the abandoned high-rises.
Beauty slackens
on its approach to the city,
tightens, thickens,
slows to an ugly crawl,
then spreads outward
where a dam impedes
most of its progress.
The overflow grinds its way
to the bay,
before finally vanishing into
deep blue waters.
The rest stays behind to stagnate,
stink up its surrounds.
I stroll the shore
below the rusty railroad bridge.
On all sides are scattered
broken glass, syringes,
used condoms and squashed beer cans.
If I hadn’t told you,
you’d never know there
was a river.

A State of Loneliness 
It’s a warm night in August.
Every window’s open.
The silence outside
and the silence within
can get to know each other better.
My neighbors are all away
on vacation.
My car in the driveway
is as alone in its world
as I am in mine.
Where is everybody?
Where is anybody?
My wife will be back home
in a week or so.
But I can’t keep company
with people elsewhere.
I’m waiting for something
I know can’t possibly happen.
Like the dead to rise up.
Long lost friends to suddenly find me.
Or time to slip forward or back a week.
Yes, Descartes,
I think therefore I am.
That always sounds to me
like I’ve just won something.
But who among you is there
to hand me my prize?

 In Dangerous Times

Christmas will get here
and then the New Year
and your scattered friends
and family members
will gather where they can
and stay scattered where they can’t,
while you’re trapped 
within walls
that are staring to crack
from the solitude,
from so much living inside them,
they can barely hold the rooms in,
with nothing opening up,
everything closing in,
and the holidays
with their silver bells
and tinsel spray,
daring you to be
with someone close,
knowing how dangerous that is,
or to stay distant,
for such a long time,
everything becomes out of reach,
everyone is miles
and months and years away,
while you’re staying safe for now,
knowing, full well,
the harm that can do.

Diner Waitresses 
The waitresses dash about
delivering burger platters
to families of harried parents
and noisy small children.
They find a rhythm of serving
that can flit between
squabbles and shouting,
without being yelled at,
without taking sides in the arguments.
They’re like surfers in aprons,
bounding from wave top to wave top,
keeping body and food above water,
while everyone else is dragged under.
The best are so deft at it
that they go unnoticed.
The orders are taken,
the food is delivered,
without a break in the contretemps,
or the fidgeting
or the elbow punching.
Only when the bill is delivered
is their presence even
the least bit acknowledged.
Then cold cash is slammed
begrudgingly hard
down on the check,
threatens to topple them.
But they grab hold of the tip,
regain their balance.

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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