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John Grey

TEN YEARS OUT OF THE HOUSE                                              


You’re on your usual riff,

shaking your head,

at what I’m wearing

because, in my childhood

you picked out my clothes for me –

            you say yesterday so often,

            time feels like it’s rewinding –

we may hit the Paleolithic Age any day now,

if you don’t start to realize

I’m not your little boy

with his hands behind his back –

            it’s my tenth anniversary of leaving home,

            barely a shred of that kid remains,

            and I’m holding up,

            I trust in my current situation –

I no longer play soldiers in the back yard

or climb half way up the oak

or measure my height with a wall and pencil –

            I can drive a car,

            sail a boat,

            date a eunuch if I want to,

            pass out drunk on a stranger’s lawn,

            refer to the underwear I fling across the floor

            as the dirty dozen –

you wouldn’t believe

the words that come out of my mouth now,

the number of syllables,

and I no longer cry over scratches

or get angry out of the blue,

or climb out the bedroom window –

            I drink occasionally,

            I have a dog ten times the size of Muggsy,

            and I pick at the sores on my body

            unadmonished -          

but please, don’t look at the situation

as some kind of defeat,

I’m fed well,

I sing happy songs often,

I have an umbrella by my side

at the least sign of rain,

I’m off the donuts,

there’s no one special,

I sleep well,

I appreciate bird chirp,

especially first thing in the morning –

            I’m accumulating

            many small things

            that build up to a larger me,

            who’s been ten years out of this place,

            ten years in a one-bedroom apartment

            close to where I work,

            and it’s time, I reckon,

            to applaud myself,

so why not join with me,

you still in your nightgown,

me in an outfit

you hope the neighbors don’t see –

            ten years that fit,

            that look good,

            that are chic

            but comfortable,

            ten years

            you didn’t pick out for me.

john grey.jpg

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. The latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline, and International Poetry Review.



I returned eventually

but kept quiet on where I’d been.

It wasn’t as if I was

in battle and my memory

was cluttered with the bodies

of comrades buried in

swamp water.

Nor was I shacked up

with some woman

I’d be ashamed to introduce

to the folks back home.

I fathered no secret children.

I committed no unspeakable crime.

First day back, I joined

family in the dining room

for Sunday dinner.

By eleven, the only ones

still up were my father and me.

We measured the silence

by the ticking of the hall clock.

I finally said something like

I needed time to myself.

He was lost for a response to that.

So I went up to bed

still knowing so much

that he would never know,

but losing no sleep over it,

and hoping he would do the same.

I had felt liberated

by being on my own.

And now, with my old blankets.

that familiar pillow,

it was as if I’d never been away.

But, had I never been away,

it could not possibly

have felt like that.



It’s where I hang my hat.

            That is,

            if I had a hat.

            And a place

            to hang it.

It’s also my castle.

Not sure though

that it would survive

a raid by Visigoths.

And home is where the heart is.

            It says it right here

            on this throw pillow.

I often get information

from what I lay my head on.

            Of course,

            when I leave the house,

            my heart comes with me.

Even at a friend’s house.

Then, a friend’s house is

where the heart is.

            My friend        goes on and on

            about his mortgage,

            how his home  

            is a millstone around his neck.

That’s when I retreat gracefully,

go home to where

I’d hang my hat if I had one

and a place to hang it,

roam the turrets

of my castle

as long as there are no

Visigoths in sight,

while my heart beats the words,

“I’m here” over and over.

            Then I feel around my neck

            for any kind of millstone.

            To be honest,

            I don’t even know

            what a millstone is.

Only that it’s heavy.

Heavier than a hat.

And I don’t even own a hat.

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