Three Poems by John Grey


A city grew out of where I lived,
full of voices,
full of bouncing on the box spring.
It kicked stray dogs in the teeth
but worshiped whatever lurked inside its cracks.
It was loud on its feet
and lost a lot of blood when the moon came out.
The city listened in.
It figured me out.
It said “Sorry, no work,”
as it chiseled out slabs of stone
to honor some long-dead gangster.
But it never cooked enough
so it could feed everyone.
And nor was there ever enough warmth
so its inhabitants could sleep.
The city just sprawled away from my chair
in the small kitchen
of my second-floor apartment.
Whatever promises it made to me
were undone like my bed.


Grand view.
Game board streets.
Taxis like moving pieces.
Factories below smoking cigarettes.
This is the highest of the high-rises.
Lungs feels like they’ve climbed ten thousand feet.
But here I am – eyes in the clouds,
elbows in the wind –
up fifty stories.
Hats off to the architect
with his inflated dreams.
And the construction crew of course.
And the electricians. And the plumbers.
There’s power and water all the way up here.
All adding to my vision.
All making me this human sky-cam.
I pity the generation
addicted to social media.
Is that a pavement down there
or a cell phone screen?
Their awe will pay for it in the end.
Such a small price to pay to ride the elevator
but the pettiness of talking to a friend prohibits.
So here I am, top floor, delirious with
the kind of fever
doctors cannot classify.
Look at those overworked corporate-slaves below.
Those ants must surely be cursing their luck.
They can’t even get out of the city’s shadow
while all I have to contend with is my own.
So how long can I stay up here?
Vertigo’s no issue.
I’m sure I’m part mountain goat.
And the spectacular never wearies me.
Only my ordinary life does that.
Yes, I will have to rejoin it eventually.
That’s the far shore, the cruel one,
straight below.


Jackhammers crack open a sidewalk two blocks away
to get at civilization’s mysterious underworld.
It’s the necessary noise of living in this age.
It’s the sound of the car engine, the cries
of lovemaking, the hellos of people who vaguely
know each other, the loud music some need
in their lives to compensate for how little
impact they’d make on the world without it.
I imagine a city in which we were all deaf.

How well we’d need to know our fingers.
Eyes would follow hands as we each spelt out our needs, our desires.
No worry about being shaken out of sleep
by the pounding of our surrounds.
I’d really want to have you in my presence
for your sense to get through to me.
Can’t you just see it.
In fact, that’s all you could do –
our hands flapping like wings,
a dainty twirl of the thumb,
a slight cock of the index finger
bringing such a smile to your silent lips.
But I would miss the symphonies and the jazz
and the lilt in your voice of course.
So I must endure the worst of buses
to get at the resonance of the heart.
Honking horns, screaming neighbors –
they’re archaeological digs
scouring down to the timbre of the true treasure.
The phone rings – another necessary evil.
Your warm greeting vindicates one sense at least.
All kinds of noise in the background.
For now, at least, it knows its place.

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John Grey is an Australian poet, 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.

Two Poems by Mitchell Grabois


The boys in baseball caps
wolf down ice cream
grab their temples and
moan about headaches

They toss remnants of cones
onto the dull green linoleum
and run out the door

the bell ringing in their wake
leaving me and Eppa with
a whole lot of quarters

I go get the broom


I feel the heaviness of my body
It has too much age
has suffered too much exertion
Its labor has been exploited
and used for others’ pleasure
Soon I won’t be able to move it

Vivian refuses to send me a photo of herself
I haven’t seen her in forty years
as long as Moses wandered in the desert

Perhaps she is doing me a favor
We want things that are
not good for us
She claims she is marred by warts
and carbuncles
but perhaps it is even worse than that

Perhaps her la raza cosmica
has lost its cosmica
and all a photo would show
would be a graceless chunk of mud

Vivian is right
It is better that she remain invisible,
that I not be subjected to reality
but instead imagine something finer

photo 4

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over twelve-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes.  His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.

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.

“Boston” by William Doreski

The Monument

The newest skyscraper offends with its defiant geometry inscribed in brutal planes and striations. The graveyard looks up and pleads. The last tourist drops on all fours and scrabbles in the dirt. He’s eating clods, spitting out the grass and swallowing the earth. It doesn’t matter who planted this garden of graves, or why the dead lie head to feet, feet to head. Only the glistening skin of the skyscraper can repel the relevant ghosts. Only its acute and unlikely angles can situate the suffering tourist in time and space. But he refuses to look up and enjoy the spectacle of a sneer of glass slicing the pure hard rind of the moon. Such gelatinous events occur almost every night, now that the President has re-elected. Maybe when the criminal charges toughen into bedrock, when the petroglyphs become more legible, everyone will learn to more convincingly blame everyone else. The graveyard sighs a modest but apocalyptic sigh as it ingests the tourist. When he awakens at home in the next century his hands will smell of dead heroes, and his feet will have petrified to agate. Someone will say, I told you so; but the skyscraper with its awkward stance will dominate still, its windows oozing spectrums the human eye can’t process or even detect.

The Current State of Matter

Expensive watches grimace
in a shop window so pricey
a security guard drools on it.

Fresh from the dimmest fusions,
I drift past with open pores.
Every neuron feels alit.

Every sentence seems too short
to describe the caffeine moment
when books I’ve read all my life

kick in with unearthly roar.
Sleek and seamless adolescents
sporting smartphones like rhinestones

chatter past in clots of flesh
a carnivore would tooth to rags.
Nothing edible for someone

of my persuasion, however.
Nothing but a stutter of goods—
expensive sunglasses, flimsy shoes,

jewelry pimpled with evening gloss.
I’ve walked so far my shoes fit
more firmly than ever, my hands

have swollen with tired blood.
Too many troubles converge
in this corridor of storefronts,

skyscrapers lilting overhead.
How much shine can I withstand
before my bones soup themselves

in whimpers of yellowish birth?
Those born digital recall
nothing of the egg. Their lives

elongate before them like shadows
thrust from the heart of the moon.
The books I’ve read all my life    (Stanza Break)

need not apply. Competing
shadows of tall buildings duel
in the fiery dark, and sales clerks

hover over powerful goods
no one has the moral power
to either purchase or refuse.

This Possum Hour

You say you’re nocturnal like
a possum. Remember that Pound
called Eliot Possum, meaning
the creature that plays dead
rather than express emotion.

At two AM the avenue
plays dead. The sidewalks curl
like lips. The tame trees planted
to shade dog walkers and pimps
defy lamplight with gloomy leers.

I should to describe you sitting up
in bed reading the bible
with the faintest hissing sound
like sand singing in an ebb tide.
Downstairs chuckling over puns

while you become too serious
to tease to life with sex, I picture
the mall leafless, cushioned with snow,
but the June night embraces me
with an argument I won’t refute.

Maybe when the shops creak open
and the famous hairdresser arrives
with his little moustache tingling,
maybe when the sailboats cream
the basin in the first big hour

of daylight the summer will seem
summer enough to enhance us.
But at this possum hour the cries
of dreaming dogs remind me
that so much has gone up in smoke

or fog or mist or unraveled ghost
that the trees have no cause to sneer,
and the bible you’re reading
may or may not falsify
the reckless history of our souls.

Your Favorite Tree Looming

At dusk in the public gardens
small, medium, and large dogs
off-leash speed across the lawns,

ears flapping. Propped on a bench
with your favorite tree looming
we merge into a single mass.

Einstein predicted warps in space
and time as energy flows
around large gravitational fields.

What about smaller entities
like a pair of seventy-year-olds
crushed together by the pink

of a fading sky? The glamor
of this hustling city passes
at a distance, a creature flowing

in a skein of yellow silk,
its assorted bling clinking.
A footfall shaped like a series

of grotesque errors tracks us
to our bench, smiles upon us,
and clomps off, dragging one foot.

Surely nothing in the bible
explains the parsing of souls
through digital processing.

Yet faces lit by smartphones
look ennobled, if sculpted in lard,
their spiritual excess burned off.

How long do we have to recline
with our senses bubbling before
the light fails so completely

that whatever wants to devour us
can approach without a whisper?
We refuse to move. The last cloud

sheds its colors. Your tree thickens
to warp us into a shadow
so deep we’ll have to escape it

like clambering out of a well
with the entire world watching
to see how naked we’ve become.

The Street of Many Spices

On the Street of Many Spices
only one toilet functions.
All night I hear it crying

down the sewers, plaintive notes
crumpling in the slush. The dead
of this long street congregate

at every corner. Tatters
of cigarette paper stick
to their lips. Their lack of breath

reeks of the rooms they occupied
before coughing up what passes
in most religions for a soul.

The local religion, however,
describes that emanation
not as soul but toxic gas,

and warns that inhaling it condemns
the victim to uncertainties
like lost wallets, passports, and keys.

I stay in my room after dark
and drink the local vino
and watch the one TV station

with sitcoms in several languages,
none of which anyone around here
speaks or understands. The creak

of giant footfall prowls the street.
I keep the curtains drawn and hope
the glow of TV doesn’t tempt

whatever skulks out there
to clamber through my window
and push its ugly face to mine.

Maybe when dawn arrives I’ll run
to the grocery for orange juice and milk.
I’ll pretend that living on this street                                      [stanza break]

is like living anywhere, the stink
of the one toilet stoking a blue
flame many stories tall, mocking

or maybe commemorating
the functions of the body
none of us love anymore.


William Doreski recently retired after years of teaching at Keene State College in New Hampshire (USA). His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.

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.

Editor’s Post: “New York City”

Ayesha F. Hamid is the founder and editor-in-chief at The City Key.  Ayesha has an MFA from Rosemont College, an MA in Sociology from Brooklyn College, and is currently pursuing an MA in Publishing from Rosemont College.  Her poetry and prose has appeared in Big Easy Review and in Philly Flash Inferno.  Ayesha is a lover of cities, big and small.

Editor’s Post – “Entering the City”

Coming out of the dark bus depot,
the traveler is greeted by bright lights
like jewels streaming emerald, ruby, sapphire.

Glimmering entities, at times distinct,
at times coalesced encourage high hopes
as city dwellers swarm around them
like satellites to stars.

Thirst arises for knowledge
of this city, its history, its people.

This need to know is matched
only by a thirst for sweet liquid
which, when found, fills incomparably well.

Sublime sugar runs down the middle
of the mouth while sour lemon
seeps at the sides. Sipping the cold can
feels commensurate to absorbing everything
as the city swallows with its noise and sights,
the liquid drowns the senses.
For a few solitary seconds there is
a feeling of complete relief.


Ayesha F. Hamid is the founder and editor in chief at The City Key.  Ayesha has an MFA in Creative Writing and MA in Publishing from Rosemont College and an MA in Sociology from Brooklyn College. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Big Easy Review Philly Flash Inferno and Rathalla Review. Ayesha is a lover of cities, big and small.

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.

“The Americas” by Chad Happ


Chad Happ is an engineering project manager who enjoys traveling and photography.  He feels that a story can be best told with a picture.  Whether its architecture or the natural landscape, Chad loves to share what he sees on his travels with others.