At Twelve, My First Flood | John Grey

The coffins aren’t popping like corn
despite what some kid at school says.
Sure, the water level’s rising
and there’s pressure from below old skeletons
but the dead are cocooned
in six feet of dense earth.
They’re not going anywhere.

It’s the cars that float like coffins
down Main Street.
And it’s everybody’s trash,
the bones of the way we live,
that is swept up by new currents.
Two days of solid rain
and the river’s overflown its banks.
The natural’s out of order.
But departed loved ones
play no part in this catastrophe.
Sure people weep…
but over ruined furniture and carpets.
It’s a flood not an exhumation.

From our second-door window,
we watch a disaster movie unfold.
But it’s not a horror show.
That’s for the hearts of the ones
who have to clean up this mess.
And our understanding
is only what we see.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dalhousie Review, Thin Air and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Qwerty, Chronogram and failbetter.

The Last Housewife | John Grey

She ironed in the parlor,
eyes on high alert
as her favorite soap operas
reached their latest flashpoint
while her hand methodically
moved back and forth
across her husband’s shirts,
trousers, underwear,
to the soft hiss of steam
that dissipated in the air.

She was more concerned
with whether the handsome doctor
would see through
the duplicitous nurse
than if a tablecloth was wrinkled,
a handkerchief scorched.
The various TV plots intrigued her.
And there were no plots
in her daily life.
People stayed together
just the way she ironed –
through habit.

She prepared his meals
to the sound of the radio:
the romantic trials and trysts of others
with melodies she could hum along to.
Young love caught her attention.
Old love followed recipes by rote.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and failbetter.

It Was Coltrane’s First Soprano Sax | John Grey

he imagined himself playing it maybe
in that underground railroad of a wind
blowing up South Michigan avenue

just had to have himself a piece
of what was already there
mapped out by his fingers
coded in his lips

couldn’t bust it open at first
sure the tunes came
but like doorbells ringing
when nobody’s home

wanted that tone in the upper register
that could outlast lungs
by ten dozen notes
wanted that sweetness
where air illuminates metal
buffs its shine
loops over and through
like a breathless knot

had to have it

got it

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and Roanoke Review.