John Grey

The January Selected Poet is John Grey

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Rats. So many rats.

The mayor says everything
possible is being done.
In private, he shrugs his shoulders.

They don’t just scurry down sewer pipes,
swarm through alleyways,
sneak around in damp, dark basements.

They’re weary of their below-the-surface,
second-hand existence.
And they’ve been observing humanity long enough.
They want what we have.

Rats. So many rats.

They’ve taken over the kitchen.
They open cabinets with their teeth,
tear into anything edible.

They’ve built nests in the parlor.
They lap up puddles of bath-water.

The family huddle in the master bedroom.
It’s no secret where those vermin are headed next.

Rats. So many rats.

We tried poison.
They’ve grown immune to it.
We rescued a cat from the pound.
That poor bloodily-flailed thing
wished it had never left.
I got myself a shotgun.
But, for every bloody rodent corpse,
six new babies drop.
Those furry creatures are taking over.
There’s nothing we can do.

Rats. So many rats.

Centuries ago, they spread plague in their wake.
Now they are a plague in and of themselves.
They’ve sated the space between the walls.
They amass outside the door, scratch at the windows.

Rats, so many rats.

Only in death
is there less of everything else.


You have not the good sense to leave this house;
you twist its rooms around you like old cloaks
to keep out the cold of your creation.

Your own decay, your own child, your sorrow
sleeps with your revenge, makes this shadow
bristling at the edges of my fitful skin;

Passes through me even, filling up my wounds
with shiver, on morbid midnights, where
scars boast almost human faces.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Front Range Review, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly.