John Grey: Two Poems

Life on the Flood Plain

The river is overflowing,
and the wake along each bank
shakes feverishly, 
is whipped away by strafing rain.

Pale faces watch from shore,
a step or two from the cresting waters,
backs to an avenue of vulnerable homes.

Eyes dull but hearts fast-beating,
each can only think 
of their house’s contents,
furniture, mirrors, carpets, beds,
unmoored and ill-equipped for floating.

Under dripping hoods,
the people draw closer,
a small town gathered, 
talking out their fears,
their frustrations,
like they’re all one family group.

Each is eager to start moving stuff,
from first floor up to second,
from basement to who knows where.
But there’s no place really safe from damage.
Experience of past floods
couldn’t be clearer.

The precious will be ruined.
Framework will need repair.
And, once the dry-out begins,
there’ll be no escaping the mud smell.

People say prayers.
They grow bitter then they pray some more.
They make vows. “Never again.”
All lead to that bitter vow,
“I’ll never sell.”


That’s the Wrong Pose

Please don’t fold your hands over your chest.
I’ve been to too many wakes.
Let them drift down to your sides,
swing them if you have to,
don’t worry about hitting me,
my head is harder than the night.
Having felt this was worth getting into,
I don’t want to lose it
to a grim imitation of a corpse,
an accident yet to happen,
a heart without heart,
some magician disease that can
turn you into a door jamb.
It’s two a.m. and a man should be
occupying dreams fully,
stirring a little mental mud,
not watching all he loves
strike a pose for the end times.
Sure, I’m drowsy, I’m incoherent,
I’m fully aware of the stand-over
tactics of the imagination.
But I don’t want
the worst that can happen,
getting any ideas.
My loneliness
is holed up in the past.
Let’s leave it there.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review, and the Round Table. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head, are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and Hollins Critic.

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