Four Poems| John Grey


I pick up the guitar for no particular reason.

It’s an old friend

that I’ve neglected these past few years.

I start with a simple e-chord,

strum with the back of my fingers.

I listen to the blend of strings,

then pluck them one by one with my stunted nails.

I prefer the audience of just myself these days.

A few sour plunks – who’s to know?

It’s like I’m just learning,

amazed by the music

taut thin steel can manufacture out of mere touch.

Even the polished body in my lap, flush against my chest,

is a revelation.

No songs today.

I let the instrument do what it wants

with my doodling.

As always, it’s what I want.



On the stoop,

Amy is side by side with an oversized piano

and a doorway too tiny.

“What about the fire-escape,” says Dylan,

“the one to your apartment window.”

Amy’s wondering

why everything in her life

is the wrong size and shape.


Dylan has all the comments,

all the cynicism to overrun

the slightest hint of tenderness.

Bert, silent type, the guy she’s keen on,

merely nods his head in agreement with Dylan,

with the laws of geometry and physics.


Amy feels the music so close,

she can smell its keys,

would grab a stool,

play something right there and then,

if she weren’t accompanied

by two of the many tone-deaf men in her life.


It’s a summer’s day

and sweat sprays her clothing from within.

“Maybe we could come back in the fall

when it’s not so hot,”

says Dylan, who hasn’t changed

a bit since he became her ex,

forever hawking his great talent

at avoiding hard work and even harder thought.


Bert is more circumspect,

having read Spinoza in college

awaits revelation,

something that can stand the test of truth,

maybe some divine authority

with the muscle to back it up.

“Men,” Amy shrugs, as if feminism began

the moment some guy decided

the relative shapes and sizes of things

couldn’t be defeated with mere muscle,

while women finagled

with the merest turning on the edge,

playing with the angles, moving in

sideways and upside down at the same time.

Then Dylan suggests they take the piano apart.

Amy’s having none of that.


And then there’s Bert,

sorrowful because he’s being no help,

still promising,

because he’s not as inane as Dylan.


One time, it almost happened,

a lecture on modern poetry at Brown,

two legs scraping together, making love

like trees do, but afterwards,

ice-cream and then nothing.


Bert could do it, she’s sure,

but he enjoys everything more

it seems, when it’s not about him.

So he moves aside,

while Dylan takes the biggest step forward,

then an even larger step back.


Finally, Dylan shrugs his shoulders,

mentions a meeting he’s already late for.

Bert pulls out a cigarette,

drags on a might-have-been.


Her ideal man is the one

who can appear out of nowhere,

load that piano on his back,

and take those stairs two at a time.


Meanwhile, her ideal woman

calls in the professionals.



Weeds and debris drowse in communal twilight.

Everyone’s still in Kansas, not Oz.

That’s weather. Bulimia one minute,

anorexia, the next.


The air is calm now but not reliable.

What happened before can happen again.

A barbecue heats up a backyard.

All are invited.  Even the city reporters.


Look at the landscape. It’s a lamb’s world.

But, every so often, a lion drops in.



For every sequence,

there’s a checkpoint ahead.

So unfair.

A bar across the road,

for the likes of me

who needs to get his own way.

There’s soldiers, well-armed.

If I try to make a break for it,

I die, flat out on the asphalt.


Imagine my consternation,

uniforms of drab gray

with splashes of red,

pointing me back the way I came

with rifle barrels.

No point pleading my case.

Their faces are immune to conversation.


So much to remember this by.

Tanks cars queued by signs

in German, French, English and Russian.

Helicopters hovering above.

There’ll be no extension to my theme.

Just tears rolling down cheeks,

frustration out of all proportion,

and hatred bloodless

against the overwhelming might

of that blockade.


So I’m in a kind of desperate malaise,

because I’ve yet to cultivate a relationship

with anger.

I take a drink to numb me into night.

Maybe if I fall asleep,

imagination will call off the roadblocks.

Dreams create an easy way through.

Ideas on the horizons,

madness in the rear-view mirror.


Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash



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.














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