Four Poems | John Grey



We come to the dinner table

like prospective tenants

looking over a new apartment.


She claims the situation

with the giving of her eyes.

To me, looking elsewhere is untenable.

I take her all in like the sweep of a lighthouse.


Her face is as

delicately lovely as a fawn’s.

My blood begins to move in me.

It is non-negotiable.


That nerve on the side of my heart

would never accuse me of bad faith.

Speech has to wait until it’s done jumping.


Conversation rocks our bodies

like breeze through treetops.

And then we laugh, almost crazy,

as if we’re bird song after rain.


Attraction was invented

a mere ten minutes before.

It is now clear

for whom it was intended





Absurd it is but people still write me longhand.

They stuff letters with meaning –

in the lines, between,

sometimes even with the stamp they choose.

I read them over and over

through many contexts, numerous qualifiers.

They interrupt the way of things.

Soon I’m boiling toast, buttering cold coffee.

My equations are uprooted.

House now equals me plus other people.

I figured I’d fallen from view.

But no, paper and ink remembers.

I should be grateful that they know I’m here.

So many other addresses wait anxiously

on the map for discovery.

Being a man,

I’m supposed to be on better terms

with a car engine than a woman’s body –

tools and mechanics –

how fire stimulates the belts and wheels –

just so it can all make a rumbling noise.

One letter says, clean the gaskets.

I never would have known that on my own.


I open to an illustration in a book

of a man bent over and sketching

with what appears to be a cherub

floating off his shoulder,

whispering in its ear.

Makes me think how far from macho

can a man let himself go.

Someone writes to tell me there’s no limit.


The present stokes the longhand of the past.

I enjoy that people make contact.

It keeps me obligated.




You hate lust. Only love will do.
You cover up your breasts. I must not know
they’re part of you. All these subtle
glances…nature has made me into a thief.

Is it my fault that your body calls attention
to you? To approach what’s inside,
I know no other way. Even your face
exposes criminal intent. In your mind,

a person has no face, no breasts, no thighs,
no legs. There’s a plane – call it spiritual,
call it fleshless, call it pure –
where I may leer and salivate to my heart’s content.

You walk in it. You work in it. It’s where

you change from one thing to another. Hurry,

get dressed, you say. We’ll be late. We can still

have sex but only when we’re actually having it.




Thinner than light, he stands

in his angelic breastplate,

what love has brought him here, what story

commuted between death and living,

only to drop him down on the terrain

of bedspread, rug and curtain,

every dresser, alarm clock, pillow,

overflowing with celestial song,

smooth as shadow, moonlight,

a perfect muted child and I,

aftermaths of his innocence, my guilt,

talking and chanting,

no longer touched by danger or despair.

Does my sorrow reach into another world,

or does his loving permeate mine,

held by softness, by relief,

by constant, noiseless searching,

regretful bribes in diffuse passageways of night,

where perspective sacrifices truth for want,

as deep memory and gold broaden their glow,

and all that’s against them, like human wakefulness,

human touch, forgoes the rituals of sleep

to dream inside the dream.


Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash



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.


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