poems by John Grey

History Repeats


I sat out on the sun deck
watching history repeat itself.
My next-door neighbor left for work.
His kids headed off to the school bus stop.
The mailman came by.
The retired guy across the street
reported to his rose garden.
The woman from one street over
strutted past in her jogging outfit.
Mrs. Sharpe was yanked down the sidewalk,
by her German shepherd.
Meanwhile, in the outside world,
talks broke down,
a politician was indicted,
a sports hero was caught cheating,
a suicide bomber blew up
a Middle East marketplace.
I saw none of that
but it felt as if I did.




Russian Bride


Olga wasn’t the same
as in the photograph,
much older and plumper,
but Tom loves her anyway.

She came from Russia.
What choice did he have?
She minds his house
while he tends to his cattle.

Her English is minimal
but she can cook
and not just beef stroganoff.
Besides, her full-bodied hugs

are welcome after
a hot and tiring day.
But she is a mystery to all others.
The accent, the shyness,

they all play their part.
He’s older than her by fifteen years
But to the prospect of a better life,
companionship, that’s nothing.

Some other lonely bachelors
considered sending for
their own “Ruskie bride”
but they never did.

Only Tom was brave enough
to take that step.
He’d never admit he was desperate.
Just lonely. And Olga was the same.

No one ever called them
the perfect couple.
But, as compromises go,
they are matchless.






This is the city where you will be living for the next thirty years.
Meditative immigrant, take a good look around.
Fold your arms if you must, admire the brown brickwork of the courts,
the neo-classical state house on Smith Hill.
Regular breaths are fine. The history will come to you in time.
Confusion at local customs is acceptable.
Just don’t immediately dismiss them with a skeptical frown.
The distance you’ve come is dwarfed by all the labor
that went into making this place exactly as you see it.
Much is remnants from a bygone industrial age.
But there’s charms to be had. May you find them.
A brown river winds in and out of the concrete.
Pigeons seek comfort in the parks, on statues.
And yes there are steep streets, cafes, and panhandlers.
And people like you from many other continents.
Visit different neighborhoods. It’s not what you
were taught in school. Indeed, if you were ever taught anything.
Maybe you’ll get a good job. Or an even better wife.
Initially inspired by abstractions, you’ll settle on the reality.
You are still the one your mother gave birth to.
But in another country, that’s all.


poems by John Grey

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