Three Poems by John Grey

The Planets Come Home

Hugged by knees, a cello
leavens the notes of tranquil Venus.

Toward the rear,
virulent hands
batter a bass drum,
boom the cannon of Mars.

Twenty violinists in black
bend their bows
to Jupiter’s Falstaffian jollity.

A French horn player
greases the path for Mercury
to glide like quicksilver.

Flighty flautists
percolate Uranus’s sleight-of-hand
while a solitary trumpet
heralds Saturn’s dotage.

And finally a choir gives
plaited voice
to mystical Neptune,
from high soprano to monkish moan,
soundly underscore his revelations.

This is the “Planets”
as described in music,
played by Earthlings
so Earth too can have a song.

Art Opening

I’m attending another art opening
from twenty years ago.
Eight paintings on four walls.
No critics come.
Only friends of the artist. My friends.

Esther turns her head away,
eyes wandering but guarded.
She so wants to be involved
in whatever it is repulses her.

To her right, Jack, looks without looking,
sunk in thought,
scraping his hands
down his day-old beard.
He is planning his masterpiece.

David adopts the pose
of a question mark.
His failed canvases
are the question.

To the rear,
Leslie, dressed all in black,
her dark hair combed severely straight,
swaps her usual sardonic expression
for the blank of appreciation
of whatever happens to be hanging.

Jeannie stares with the kind of tranquil indolence
with which she gazes at people.

It could be Christine’s show
or it might be Leroy’s.
The idea of art is to survive us all.
But, in this case,
it’s the people I remember,
some passed on,
others moved out of state.
They were all painters, writers, actors,
good one or two of them,
mostly mediocre.
Yet, if genius was a prerequisite,
who would I ever know.


It was a Sunday morning, ten a.m.
And raining.
He dashed from the gate
to the waiting car.
The welcoming kisses
were are damp as his eyes.

Ten years he’d been inside.
One for every chewed fingernail.
There’d been visits
but touching was looked on
as being as criminal
as what he was in for.

Beyond the hugs of his family,
he hadn’t much of a future.
He had no money.
No one would hire him.
And the affection of his loved ones
ran far deeper than their pocket books.

It was a Sunday morning, ten a.m.
It was the end of something
but not the beginning of anything else.
And it rained.

So he dashed from the gate
to the waiting car
like he was anxious to be
some place there was no point in being.
The welcoming kisses
merely bid him goodbye.
A year almost to the day,
the damp eyes
went back inside to dry out.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

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