John Grey

The January Chosen Poet is John Grey

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Nothing like an old bookstore
with its narrow, dark aisles,
cobwebs dripping from the ceiling.
Every book cover
is one touch away
from puffing up a cloud of dust.
Each yellowing page
festers with insect larvae.
A volume of Thackeray
is so stained, so crinkled,
so wretched-looking,
it's more suited to grimoire
than great literature.
And next to it is a book,
so ancient, so rooted to its shelf,
I swear it cries out as I take it down,
squeals when I open it.
It's a book of spells.
And, on the very first page,
the heading is,
"How to turn a man into a book."
The price is only a dollar,
person included.


I am lived in
no matter where I live.
My tenant is
the old man who passed away
from hunger
or the woman who was
battered to death
by a drunken boyfriend.

I sometimes feel so weak
I could collapse any moment now.
Or I'm taking blows
to every part of my body.
and I'm bleeding everything
but real blood.

I fasten the windows.
lock the doors at night,
but I keep more in
then I ever keep out.
There's the junkie
who shot himself up
into oblivion.
I can sense a syringe
being jabbed into my arm.
And the boy who hung himself.
My neck burns
from an invisible rope.

It's not as if
I give these people a good home.
I’m just the bad one
where they've always lived.


The villagers are pounding on the door.
They’re carrying torches,
brandishing axes, swords, spikes
and various other weapons.
This is not a social call.

Time to seal the coffins,
padlock the lab,
tie down the woman in the attic,
drug the lug in the bedroom
getting itchy from the full moon.

If the townsfolk have their way,
They’ll decapitate the vampires,
set the monster ablaze,
send the crazy lady off to an asylum
plug the werewolf with silver bullets.

Sure it will make the village safe.
But think of the effect on our readers.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently he has been published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in The Roanoke Review, The Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly