top of page

John Grey




I figure he couldn't

write a poem to save his life

but what use is poetry

when a pipe is leaking,

the toilet's backed up.

and the hot water tap

brings me nothing but cold.


The plumber immerses himself

in the grunginess under the sink.

He's not go

where only half-flushed human waste

has gone before.


But he's more than just

first one over the top

in the war against errant liquids,

insidious smells.

With pipe wrench, pliers,

he's the nimble conductor of that

great orchestra of how things work.


I eschew conversation with a tradesman.

Leave him to it.

He might ask. me what I do.

What can I say?

"Give me a call

when you're stuck for assonance,

alliteration and metonymy."


He's done in less than the time it takes me

to rustle up a last line.

But then he hands me the bill.

There's the difference.

Poetry has its price

but not what you see on paper.



Tuesdays add trash pickup to morning noise,

chicken bones are ground into bus gears,

running children are recycled with a clang,

church bells ding against busted jelly jars,

even a next door neighbors' first

shouting match of the day echoes

through soda bottle and empty baked beans cans.

I rise to the clatter of a week's worth of garbage

shaken down by mechanical arms.

My sleep is deafened. My dreams are lucky

they dissipate before the grinder's blades have at them.

A frightened dog howls, adds to the cacophony.

My wife rolls over, pretends this is not happening.

She may be dressed prudently for bed

but her nerves are exposed to the next

round of shunting, grunting and clamor.

There is no escaping the life we lead.

It generates waste. It cannot simply be.

The city council cleans up on our behalf.

And we pay in these disturbances.

It's time to get up even if it's really not.

The night is ended because sounds say so.

Day breaks despite the bedside clock's naysaying.

It's Tuesday morning. The outside is the true alarm.



I'm strolling down the street

wearing ragged jeans with holes in pockets

but a smart looking jacket

picked up in a thrift shop,

and so in love

I swear the clouds in the sky

are cupids.


These Levis are dying on the vine

to be sure

but my face glows

like I'm some fairy-tale prince

with the absolutely right shoe for the left foot

or the perfect lips for a mouth in a coma

or reciting aloud the poems I wrote

this very morning

that white birds deliver

to their intended.


I swear the sun

is a huge yellow grin

and the trees

summon up a chorus

of glad-handing whispers

and the traffic can't even get

a grumbling sound in

for the triple-time beating of my heart.


It's September.

Rain's elsewhere,

on a mission to discredit others.

Sunshine accompanies me on my walk,

gets me drunk on glistening.

What a world.

What a sidewalk.

What a woman waiting for me

at the diner on King Street.

If my heart could walk,

it would take these steps exactly.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Mudfish and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit and Louisiana Literature.   

bottom of page