poems by John Grey

Top of the world


We’re flying over snow-buried land,

flat and tree-less.

This desolation is the quickest route

between two places where people live.

At one end, a bustling town,

at the other, a burgeoning city.

But I’m learning what separates them:

a wilderness masquerading as a calm.


If it weren’t for the clear sky,

the landscape would never know what season it is.

It’s supposed to be summer.

But that season’s buried somewhere deep below.

Only the light tells otherwise,

twenty-four hours of it

in all directions.


No people.

No animals.

We’re all that’s living.

We bear the responsibility

and move on.




Six months after the miscarriage


A gray and cold afternoon,

and you sit cross-legged on the bedroom floor,

still in your dressing gown,

rocking an imaginary child in your arms.


You whisper “quiet” in

your husband’s direction,

and he obeys.

“There, there,” you say softly.

“Go to sleep. He won’t hurt you.”


The baby sleeps but not you.

Your wakefulness is as persistent

as the April rain.

And your hands resist his hands.

A kiss on your cheek provokes a snake hiss.


There’s nothing more present in a home

than what can never be.

That’s why the bathroom closet’s

stuffed with diapers,

and there’s always a bottle

boiling on the stove.


You see a psychiatrist

but you mistake him for a pediatrician.

He suggests admitting you some place restful.

You’re concerned that their facilities

won’t provide for the baby’s needs.


There’s nothing in your arms.

There’s nothing for you in the man you married.

No wonder you insist

the baby looks so much like his father.




My relationship with cemeteries


This fancy script

could be a lover’s,

and the huge mausoleum,

no doubt a rich man’s

bragging from the afterlife.

Here is the grave of a young girl.

That explains the weather-beaten teddy bear

pawing at the ground.


The seeds I sprouted from

is here somewhere.

I can’t find them however.

There are lots of angels about

but none of them point the way.


So the graves of others will have to do.

Like these eighteenth-century stones,

incisions so faint

they may as well be my forebears.

Or this odd epitaph,

“Roar like a lion.”

Maybe there’s no ape in my backstory.

Merely, a loud, obnoxious feline.


I am not fascinated by what I see around me.

Nor am I repulsed.

Everything is so matter of fact.

Like death itself

And humanity’s vast experience

in getting rid of bodies.


To be honest,

I’d rather my descendants

didn’t waste their time

seeking out my plot.

Burial is just mulching

but with more patience.


So, if a cremator

solicits volunteers for burning,

I’ll raise my hand.

I’ll leave it up

until I’m dead.




Looking out

The light lingered, though frayed,
bits here and there my eyes tried to piece
together but eventually, like cake, falling
apart in my fingers. Dark wants to be solid
like the snow that traps road and sidewalk

and field equally, that cares as little for human
transport as for growing. I’ve lost the grass,
and then went the shine. Just headlights now,
jagged and jittery, not bothering to show footprints

or the claw-marks of the plows. Just somber cars
moving slow, almost still, like they have no people
in them. Frost moves in for the window, with lamp
behind, breaks down the face in glass. If the
moment wants me, it will have to piece the jigsaw,

press ear to intermittent cheek, merge chin with mouth,
connect the flurried eyes, then match them with
a white-washed brow. Can’t be done. Thankfully,
someone in the next room calls my name. It’s why
we have rooms and not just landscapes

poems by John Grey

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