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Poems by John Grey


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and Held.

People in the Flood Plain Town

They delight in showing me

high water marks.

Here, this notch in the hardware store door,

that's where the flood peaked.

And put your nose to this carpet,

you can still smell what happened

five years ago this June.

Sure, out come the photo albums,

memories from sepia

to glossy first birthday of the latest child.

But disasters too have their

much-loved record-keeping:

a bubble in paint,

the sudden color change in wood stain.

We were all younger then, they smile,

when a box of blemished snapshots from the seventies

is dragged up from the cellar.

But dryer now, they add,

to explain the water

Butterfly Encounter

Not knowing how the butterfly measures distance.

I creep in closer as its black and gold wings

flutter through the garden, floating some, alighting more,

a nectar seeker in a color barrage of open flowers.


Maybe it sees me not at all

or its eyes quickly determine 

Im five hundred butterflies away.

I come so close,

the insect almost brushes my face.

But I am not worth bothering its proboscis.

I contain no sugars, no salts, 

and most of all, no pollen.

And Im not a predator,

merely an observer.

There is no instinct in the natural world for that.

I too am an Immigrant

This is not my first time coming here

but now, I enter by a different door.

The way forward is not blocked

but locks shut tight behind me.

I didnt come by this freedom easily.

Ive been inspected, evaluated, 

checked for lice, and communicable diseases.

And Im steered through some tight passengers

where Im watched, even sniffed, by someone

at every turn.

But, with a passport and visa 

branded like cattle,

I finally find my way into the country.

The sun is bright.

I rub my eyes.

Its my daybreak.

But traffics busy.

People push and shove.

Its everybody elses noon. 

Regarding the Butterfly

One person dies.

But theres who knows how many  

victims of that death.

Even beyond the mourning 

friends and relatives,

the convenience store

sells one less daily newspaper,

the old woman on her porch

is down a friendly wave,

even the scruffy neighbors dog

that looks forward to a pat 

will be, from now on,

looking forward.

until it too dies.

One person dies

and theres a fender-bender that doesnt happen,

a snowy driveway that goes un-shoveled,

a coughing fit unheard,

a carrot in a backyard garden that 

will shrivel away before its ever picked.

None of us,

not even the monk, the hermit,

is free of the butterfly effect.

One person dies

and that changes the course of everything.

Right now,

my tears are for Carolyn.

Somewhere, sometime, down the road,

someone will drown in them.

My Life (The Factors Involved)

My lifes always grabbing me by the arm,

dragging me in the opposite direction

to where I thought I was going.

Like into the carnage, the flames.

The teeth of the snapping dog.

The slap on the face for no reason.

The whereabouts of my nemesis.

The unexplained throb,

improbable shudder.

My life is never satisfied

with what ought to happen.

So it drops me in the middle

with what does happen.

Body broken up.

Heart dismantled.

Prayers unanswered.

Rainbows merely shades of gray.

Not that I blame my life.

Not while Im the one living it.

From One to Another

Nothing much happening here.

Just been recycling my lack of confidence.

Taking my shyness to a whole other level.

Folding and refolding my doubts.

Sandblasting my self-image.

Wouldnt describe it as loneliness.

Its more like no one I know

can imagine being with me

at this very moment.

Or any moment for that matter.

I know. I know.

I should be more positive.  

But you know how it is.

At least, I hope you do.

Otherwise, you wont bother reading this.


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