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by John Grey



During The Riots


What is that sound, that commotion?

It's coming from outside.

Heavy footsteps.

An angry sprint.

Can't hear your own clear thoughts.

Or the growing of your peonies

in the window box,

the neighing of ceramic horses

on the mantle.

Even the apartment you live in -

it's trying to say something

but is muted by the clamor.

There are people in the streets

running and shouting.

Storefronts are busted.

Cars set on fire.

Cops shot some kid.

Turns out he was unarmed -.

Stay inside, you tell your life.

Head lowered, lips taut,

you fit it in nicely.




a line, (a short blue one)



On The Red Line


Curious, these people drawn out

of some commuter hat

to fill all the available spaces.

Odd, the faces and the bodies

chosen, by circumstance

to share the red line

from Downtown Crossing

to Harvard Square with me.

I'm by myself and yet, on either side,

there’s some students, nose rings

wriggling to the jiggle of the rail,

their legs knocking against my knees,

an older man with beard,

maybe a professor and

a couple of tourists

with heavily marked up maps.

Across from me is

an intellectual type,

head buried in Spinoza

and a couple of black kids

singing under their breath

and a Spanish woman,

and a man with a thick Russian accent

talking to himself.

The ones in my life

are chosen deliberately

compared to this.

The lovers and the friends,

I open my door for very carefully,

after much thought and feeling say,

"Yes you can ride this train."

But every stop, some leave,

some more get on so randomly.

Company is never this busy,

never this loud.

So many people ride my solitude.

Such a variety

to not knowing me.




a line, (a short blue one)



Human Sacrifice


I'm born into a loving family

despite losing my dad,

and I figure,

wow I'm cared for,

I'm cared about.


And as soon as I'm old enough

to understand -

I'm grateful for living in a free country

Not like in the former Soviet Union


And it's safe –

none of those American shootings,

Latin wars,

Asian disasters.


And the weather's perfect -

it's not Equatorial Africa,

it's not Siberia.


The women are beautiful.

My sports teams are winning.

I have a decent job.

The pay's okay

but the perks are great.

Besides, the ocean's nearby

and it’s free.


So what do I do

but emigrate,

leave all this behind

just because I happen

to love somebody.


I don't bring it up much

but then again

gun-owners don't shoot

burglars much.




a line, (a short blue one)



City Folk


City's crawling back

like an alligator

into the sewers

that birthed it.


Roads are brackish,


Cars leave greasy

snail trails.

Houses descend into sumps.


Sun's not sinking,

it's drowning.

The moon doesn't rise,

it's hatched.


Those are snake eyes

glowing in the night sky.

Blind fish gulp and squelch

from the brown

cesspool surrounds.


Soon enough,

everything will be swallowed

by a bottomless grimy pit.


Until then,

business as usual

in gutter, down culvert.


We're the populace.

Don't mind the stench.

It’s not going anywhere.




a line, (a short blue one)



A Disappointing Year, Same Old Pond


He's been stabbed in the hand

this past year

and he scalded his fingers in hot water.

His wife left.

His job folded.

What can fresh water do for him?


Mild, quiet,

you could almost call it

a setting.

What can disappointment bring to this?


All too peaceful.,

too serene —

a man has to interpret

on his own terms.


So rocks sink through his own rippling face,

disperse his eyes, his mouth, his chin,

before surface heals.


He thinks of his wife

swimming in this pond,

her strokes even

like weaving at a loom.

Some more stones follow -

smash her body, her implement.


His shoulders ache

as does his neck

as he scours for fresh weapons.


He remembers when feelings

were above all else,

more than everything.


Now all is water.

Expecting to drown,

he splashed instead.





a line, (a blue one)


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