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.


They haven’t changed.
Still smoke pot in a room with a bare bulb
and packing cases for furniture.
They’re past retirement age
but they set up camp in the sixties, 
with straggly hair, beard on him,
and the Grateful Dead on the stereo.
Sure, they both resort to an array of pills
from time to time,
arthritis salvers, blood-pressure downers.
But none as healing as a reefer.

Life’s been  illuminating, benevolent 
and contemplative.
But also ordinary, mundane.
And then there were the kids – three in all.
Redemptive at the time.
A burden, later.

Now they’re in pain but euphoric.
They still reach this great plain
of spiritual awareness,
but their bodies have to stay behind.
Lava lamp glows. Incense whispers.
A cocoon wraps around.
A fitting end for former butterflies.


Come night, there’s no more pond,
merely a dark shape
harboring the dead.

But come morning,
sun separates silty bottom
from vibrant waters,
awaken the insects,
the miniscule fish, 
pokes open the eyes of the turtle, 
assures there’s no mistaking
the light green grass along the banks
and the deeper hue of the frog.

And there’s enough surface now
for a boy. at dawn, to find his face in.
And a girl to look over his shoulder,
until her cheeks’ reflection
floats with the lilies.

The pond is the familiar,
the reliable, a gathering place,
even for the older ones who come later,
when the air’s noon-warm,
and first stirrings have long 
since busied themselves
into daily activities.

The oldest of all, in late afternoon,
prods the earth with her cane,
jostles the dragonflies, 
with the flounce of her best summer dress.

I swear that if the light held out any longer.
then the dead would come by,
admire their old selves in the ripple.

But dusk moves in,
there’s no more pond,
merely a dark shape
harboring the dead.
So, in truth, 
our ancestors are there already. 


The jacket is of another time,
occupies the far end of my closet.
It’s where the years I’ve lived would be
if they didn’t just dissipate
but had to be stored.
Luckily, time is less demanding in that way
though try telling that to my knees.
But fabric is another story.
In fact, it’s more story  
than something to be worn.
That’s why, when I throw out some stuff,
like shoes for example, or ties,
it feels like murder.
But no way this jacket goes the way
of Metallica t-shirts, Superman underwear,
or the jeans that, at the end,
would have been lucky to fit around one leg.
Did I say murder?
Tossing that jacket in the trash
would be more like suicide.
It’s the shape of my torso, my arms, 
at their peak.
The fake leather looks so real,
cows used to beg for its return.
And the insides are so soft and warm.
What I got from women only sometimes,
it was always willing to provide.
I haven’t worn it in a long time.
I haven’t been the guy who used to wear it
in a long time.
It’s more haute couture for dreams.
But my dreams gaze backward 
as much as they do forward.
Why shouldn’t they have something
to look good in.
My wife is always saying,
“Why don’t you get rid of that thing.”
That’s now.
But not back when we were dating.
Then, she was happy to run her fingers
down its light brown sheen.
And she’s not about to give up her fingers.
So why can’t I hold onto where she touched?

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