Three Poems by John Grey

NEWLY SINGLE

It’s been two months
since she told me she loved another.
That’s her explanation
but I still know so little
as I try to catch up to
the truth behind her words.
At least the bars were open by then.
And I felt sick enough
to risk the muted sunlight
of a drinking establishment
while her image floated smugly
in the alcohol.

Of course, the semi-darkness
did me no good.
I couldn’t help wonder
how the truth became a lie.
All that was left for me to do
was be part of her history,
even as I said goodbye
to all who lived it.

So now I can do what I want.
But I don’t believe happiness arranged all this.
Not now that I’m talking to the walls,
trying to explain to a blank TV screen,
almost went mad asking the refrigerator questions.
So goodbye coppery hair.
Goodbye large soft breasts
No doubt I know people I can talk to.
But to be in love with a woman?
I’ve no wish to be suspected of that again.
For some reason, it mattered once,
It would be wrong to deny it.
But perhaps a man is perfectly suited to living alone.
It is a difficult thing to do, and so maybe
it is just as well to learn how to do it –
without the presence of a saboteur.

I’ve said it aloud,
if that could make me feel any better,
a proclamation untitled and undated,
my sorrow made brave by alcohol.
I am speaking as clearly as I can,
mingled with the sincerity of the tears she shed,
her altered face, the change in my own,
the promise to never get this way again,
to not even look at anybody else.

Surely there’s enough in disinterest to keep me occupied.
I’ll be like the funeral of someone
musty and fusty, narrow-minded but clean
and only breaking out in bitterness
when no one is looking, not even me.

REHEARSAL

He cleans himself up
in the railway station bathroom.
Water has at the grit
lodged in the seams of his leathery skin.
He even nudges an old razor
across his stubbled chin.
Then off comes the shirt
and. with a moist paper hand towel.
he scours the dirt from his breasts.
see-through rib-cage
and scarred stomach.
Once done, he slips by
those with a train to catch.
back out into the streets
where his destination is
the same as every day –
a park bench, the shadow
of an overpass, the ground floor
of an abandoned factory.
His hair is matted.
His clothes dirty and disheveled.
And he still reeks like a dumpster.
But. in that men’s room,
those were more than just
half-assed ablutions.
more like rehearsals for a better life.
He never will get good at it.
He no longer expects to.

JOGGERS IN THE PARK

The joggers pass by me –
some float, some struggle,
a pant here, a grunt there,
maybe twenty of them
from the gazelle up front
to the red-faced tortoise at the rear.

The cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Day-lilies fringe the trails a tawny orange.
But these runners
are too consumed by how
they’re doing today
compared to yesterday.

No rocks. No pines. No oaks.
No sunbathers sprawled across the lawns.
No Frisbees. No dogs let loose from their leash.
No pigeon-soiled equestrian statue.
No quick kiss and the stroll that proceeded it.

They could just as easily
be jogging through the city dump,
an abattoir, City Hall, a department store.
Most likely the track is
in and out of an old clock factory,
tick-tocking their current pace,
teasingly clanging their best time ever.

I ramble on
and a squirrel darts up a tree at my approach
as if it’s life depended on it.
A jogger, if pressed,
would tell me the same.
I stop to admire a cluster of white flowers
in a cockspur hawthorn thicket.
That’s three lives,
three dependencies.

File0005 V3 (2)

John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Please note: Poetry is compressed to fit smart phone screens. If you are reading this poem on a phone screen, please turn your screen sideways to make sure that you are seeing correct line breaks for this poem.

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