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by John Grey



A Very Covid Times Square


Where is the crush

of crowds of every color?

The yellow taxis

making five lanes out of three?

It’s New York,

the cauldron of civilization.

But what use is an inferno

if no one’s getting burned.


Near fare-less buses

crawl down the avenues.

Subway smoke

puffs through the grid,

looks around,

sees no one.


A black preacher

dozes on a shuttered store’s step,

with his Bible for a pillow.

No one’s selling

knockoff Gucci bags.

Or books

that fell out of the back

of a library.

I say to myself, “Poof”

and a sidewalk full of people vanishes.


This is a kind of limbo

where words hide behind masks

and flashing neon signs

can’t even give their glitter away.


A chicken suit,

a woman with painted breasts,

await someone to take their picture

for a small fee.

I didn’t bring my camera.

I was afraid it might help me

remember this.




a line, (a short blue one)



Our Burdens


With great joy, I bear

this feather up the hillside,

with the ones carrying anvils,

logs and large rocks,

lagging far behind.


It is a feather from

the injured bird I found

and nursed back to life.


Meanwhile, the anvil people

cussed and gambled,

the log folks sinned under the sheets,

and the rock army drank and brawled.


I reach the top

with the ease of a winged creature,

let my feather go,

watch it taken by

the winds, the updrafts,

and float up to the clouds.


And then I look down

on all these others

as they struggled

with their weights.


I look down

on all the good times

I stupidly missed out on.


And you wonder why

I can’t stand birds.




a line, (a short blue one)



At The Market


Mutts with ribs showing

hang out in the marketplace,

sniffing for scraps.


There are no handouts.

Everything scavenged

is either dropped or thrown away.


They dare not steal

for a kick in the side

could break the bones

that they parade

so prominently.


A young boy,

just as hungry,

will grab something

from a stall

if the opportunity arises.


If caught,

an angry vendor

will have him dragged off

and beaten

by the law.


Boys aren’t treated

the same as dogs.


Differing cruelties

make that clear.




a line, (a short blue one)



No Good                                                      Page One                                


I swear to you

I love all women

except, that is,

for the one who was no good.


That should have been her name.

No Good, late of this parish.


No good, pacing up and down in the front room.

No good when we had even less than I have now.

No good when I remember the times…


Sure her old man deserted her when she was seven.

And her mother sometimes turned tricks on the side.

And I have no wish to put myself high above her.

But to get down to her level?

That’d take a legless limbo dancer.


No good lips, whether kissing or talking.

No good smile.

Head as off-kilter as a failed space mission.

No good spending hours curled up in the arms of some guy.

And making him feel good.

If that’s not no good then what is?

Or what’s not?


No good like spring’s no good.

All that brilliant emergence.

It throws a man.

It starts his engines unexpectedly.

It squeezes his horizons together like testicles.

No good for making my resistance so useless.

No good for lining my life with palms and flowers.

No good for making me eager.

For functioning like a man.

For holding me up.

For paying so much no good attention to me.


She never could fizzle like a bad date does.

She couldn’t just be a weak storm.

She had to make it powerful and personal.

No good for making me stumble.

No good for all that substance and light.




No Good                                                              Page Two                                


No good when the sun rose.

No good when it set.

No good a thousand miles away.

No good when as close as my spirit.

And extra no good for always coming to my rescue,

for surprising me just so I could surprise myself.


No good for taking me as her subject.

No good for those swirling troughs that sucked me under.

No good for tapping into my intuition.

No good for making me feel good.

No good for that technical innovation –

leaving me forever in tears.

No good for making me think,

even after all these years,

that she was plain no good.




a line, (a short blue one)



I'm Glad You Asked

How can you live

with bombs exploding in your ear,

She merely shrugs her shoulders.

You get used to it.

Rut when everybody knows someone

who's a victim of this war,

how can you even think of getting

close to people.

More shrugging.

What else is there but people.

How do you plan for anything

when everything is blowing up around you?

You play it by ear...

where the bombs are..


a line, (a blue one)


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