A Poem by John Grey

A thousand people
cram into a block or two of sidewalk
on a hell-hot steamy Saturday afternoon
in New Orleans –

pallbearers and coffin ease their way
through the throng
to the slow rolling rhythms
of a brass band –

street dancers follow the body,
their partners
the parasols above their heads
and the flowing scarves
wrapped around the wrist –

an old woman
looks out over her iron-grill balcony,
a drunk abandons half a glass of beer,
stumbles out of the bar –

the dead wouldn’t miss this
for the world.



A Poem by John Grey

Some petals are dressed in royal purple
Others apprise me of their sound.
A few carry a smidgen of bee.
And there’s one whose flower
reminds me of an overbite.

I don’t so much prune and plant
as synch, emote, provide
a platform for all that is truly
relevant to beauty in our culture,
not just for the current blooms
but the ghosts of blossoms past.

This stamen shimmers like glass.
Another nibbles minerals in the shadow.
Here, silver-blue.
There, a kind of botanical rhetoric.

Dawn sets some spiny leaves ablaze,
informs a shrub its going everywhere
but in the one place.

Twilight is lock-down,
but white bells shrug this off,
exist in a kind of nostalgia for the day,
stay afloat in moon-shadow,
rock the fine-toothed vessel of the stars.

No burdens.
Some rose-red exhalations.
A few clustering low.
Many speaking for the current climate.
Others in a lovely morning re-deploy.

This garden is my house of mirrors.
I see my face in the density of its soil,
the frenetic colors of the wind,
in the lightness of tiny and white,
in the darkness of full and everlasting.


A Poem by John Grey

Each time I come back here
I expect to find it the same,
like there’s this pact
between myself and the waters.

But the harsh does not cooperate,
seems strange.
Yes, the crickets chirr,
But it’s not the same insects.
The throaty whistle of the blackbirds
is the sound of strangers
as is the rump-pump of the frogs.

I am almost saddened
because there are these ways
in which a once-familiar landscape
can go on without me.
And the mallards don’t need my permission
to glide on the waters.
The purpose of the slithering copperhead
does not include me.
It is not their function to make me understand
what I do not know.
They can surprise me
like that black bear high up on a tree branch.
But I am not part of the plan.
I am not essential.

And when I try to hold the landscape
to how I remember it,
nothing helps out –
not the driftwood, not the mangrove roots,
not the sighing cypress.
People may come here from time to time.
But it is only about them incidentally.

On My Return

A Poem by John Grey

It’s not what I expected on my return.
My boyhood home hadn’t changed
one slap of paint, one poster on the wall.
Those left behind felt most comfortable
in nothing ever moving on.
It all was where I left it.
That made the love so much easier.

All the hopes, the promise, the beginnings, were intact.
Even ones that ended badly.
Fingermarks, books in shelves,
old letters in drawers, ceramics on mantles,
even the clock that hadn’t worked in years –
those were the bearings of a life.

Back to such normalcy,
I sat at the table with familiar faces
discussing how life ought to be.

Mother said, we can clean now, varnish,
even move furniture around.
I tried but was of no help
because I could imagine no other house but this.