John Grey

The November Selected Poet is John Grey

Please feel free to email John at: jgrey5790@gmail.com



The house is weaned of light
and they are with us,
flapping against windowpane,
or already infiltrated, circling their attic cave.
The color of morbid thinking,
they swirl at life's rim.
float across the dark bedroom ceiling,
where the real world
meets the faces in a dream.
They know the occupants,
their habits, fears,
drop down on deadly soft wings,
fasten to throats,
suck out the contentedness of life.
In the morning,
pale faces, weeping red wounds,
greet the mirror.
"Bats," we sigh.
We almost convince ourselves.


The trio: cat and bird and woman,
not like the trinity.
here is a beautiful black-haired siren,
a feline, a raven,
of the same emphatic hue,
roaming the deserted streets,
in search of pallid faces of the bed-ridden,
of crumpled desiccated dresser flowers,
sniffing out the scents of dying,
the heavy breath, the scarlet boils.
the shrunken cheeks, the desolate eyes,
discerning, dissembling,
at the window, peering in,
faces that can see each other
ten thousand times in the glass,
overwhelming all space
as the living attend to that
farewell to themselves.
while cloak and feather and paw
cast their shadows    
with step, with whisper, with proffered hand;
these are the trappings
turning cold in the sheets overnight
under moonless skies, the color of the grave.


All but one dead - a lame old man of undeterminable age.
All present drank from the well. Except he.
The women in their woven caps and aprons.
The men all gray with sweat after a long day planting winter corn.
The patriarchs. The children. Even the oxen.
A new bride and groom.
A baby with the liquid still dripping from its lips.
And a visitor who had strayed from his path
but was welcomed into the fold.
All still where they fell.
And in peace.  For there’s no pain in any of the faces.

It’s an out-of-the-way place,
hidden between great slate mountains,
a hollow that even the stars have a hard time finding,
not prosperous, but not drought-withered either,
Quaint houses. Marigolds. 
A communal hut.
And even a small church where the priest,
in red vestment, lies curled up on his altar.
Looks like he’s sleeping
but his lungs have not uttered
a single syllable of air in days.

The old man scratches his head.
He hasn’t the strength to bury all the others.
Nor has he the stomach for letting them rot.
Fire would be ideal.
Charred flesh and bones so much easier to dispose of. 
But better the chance of lightning striking
then he rubbing enough sticks together
to stir up some flame.
No, the only solution is for he too
to take a sip from the well.
That would slake his thirst.
Help him to think clearer.

John Grey is an Australian poet, now an American resident. He’s been 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.