Three Poems by John Grey

By the Mississippi

A river can’t help
but be a gathering place
even if it’s just for thoughts.
Or no thoughts at all.

A bank – any bank –
or even a wind-stripped bluff –
the waters always find me a situation.
A tree trunk provides back support,

one of the willows that droop into their shadows.
And I don’t bring rod and reel
but sandwiches and thermos.
It’s a hundred years or more

since paddle boats docked here,
depositing their passengers and cargo.
Some romance has gone the way
of trucks and bridges.

But the current ambles on
even if there’s nothing riding it.
And I hear a promise to a distant spring
that’s fulfilled in faraway ocean.

A Large Girl in a Tiny House

My golden hair rubs spiders
from the ceiling.
My pretty blue dress
mops dust up from the floor.
My elbow scrapes
the muck out of the corner.
What is that stuff?
White rabbit dander? Frayed playing cards?
Croquet mallet filings?
Felt from the Mad Hatter’s topper?
The window’s open, so at least
my hand can free itself.
But to what end?
For Cheshire Cat to rake his claws?
Dodo to nibble?
Humpty Dumpty to sit upon,
stumble off, and sue me later?
And I’m still growing.
Walls could squeeze my face
into my knees and out the other side.
Brain and heart might mesh together,
blood vessels pop, veins coil and knot.
Oh how I wish I were home.
But wait, I am home
and here comes mother
to check the door’s steel bolt.
“Wonderland,” I hear her mutter
as she waddles back to the kitchen.
“I’ll give you Wonderland.”
She doesn’t actually.


I can exist in two places at once.
I’m here, mid-December,
the chilled thin body
like the gaunt trees I see through the window.
And I’m there, late November,
on a Queensland beach,
heaping sand in the shape of a fortress,
while one sister swims,
two sunbathe, and my mother watches
from beneath a wide-brimmed hat.
I am hot and cold.
I am middle-aged and young.
The woman I love is sleeping.
The women I love
(even if I don’t admit it)
celebrate, in their own way,
the blessed sunshine.
Time tries to keep me honest
but my memory outwits it.
It figures I have enough to keep me going
just being who I am.
But no, I can go back when I choose.
My skin can roast a little
even as the bitter winds blow down from Canada.
I can inhale some of that brine
despite being miles from any ocean.
Looks like snow.
Looks like another perfect day.
Today I’ll stay in, write.
Today, I’ll play on the golden beach.
I have a feeling today’s the days.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work forthcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

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