Off the Road by John Grey


He dreams of that old Thunderbird
with the bullet-nosed hood,
the way it idled like a Bengal tiger’s gut
at the stop light on Cross and Barnes,
the sweet low whine of the turbo,
his foot as eager as a finger
to press that accelerator trigger
as two dolt-heads rolled up on either side,
one in a battered Chevy and
the other, a sleek Corvette.

There’s nothing happening this week or the last
to equal leaving those two pretenders
sniffing foul rubber,
choking on his exhaust.
His family is here visiting
and, while he’s glad to see them,
love’s like an old VW Beetle
compared to what memories are driving.

One son-in-law parks
wife, kids and belongings in an SUV
to get there.
His own boy drives a Cadillac,
says it helps his business
to be seen in one.
Even his eldest grandchild
pushes a tiny truck across the linoleum.

Where’s speed? Where’s noise?
Where in hell is questioning
the other guy’s manhood?
His youngest daughter
brings him his daily dose
of mashed up baby vegetables.
That’s where.



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


Original photograph by Nminow.

Three Poems by John Grey

Waiting Room Reading

I’m reading a six month old
Sports Illustrated.
I know the coach
they’re glorifying
is fired by September,
the great running back hope
busts his ankle in the
third game of the season.
My symptoms are
flicking through page after page
looking for the one
low light in some athlete’s life
that they know turns into
a feel good story.
But there’s no cure here.
So I pick up a year old Business Week
whose headline promises
better days ahead.
We all know how that turned out.
I’m trying to be optimistic for the future
by seeing how the past did it.
But days gone by
never do get good at
predicting how it all comes out.
“The doctor will see you now.”
the nurse says.
Well at least he won’t be
seeing me back then.


My Checkup

It’s not the light
promenading down my heart
or my words read sideways

but EKG, X-ray; urine sample,
rubber-fingered rectal exam.
None of the invisible shock

waves of the head but reflex
test, lung-capacity graph,
and blood sucked up into a needle.

No one’s powdering my soul
for prints or running biopsies
on each reminiscence.

They’re telling me I’m
fine for what I am, the latest
way to tell me nothing.


Dear Brain Surgeon

So the brain is cut wide open.
Tell me doc, what do you see in there?
Any clue as to who I am?
Anything in there that doesn’t need
a functioning body to represent me,
that can pulse on forever
like that Energizer bunny?

My head gave way to your scalpel.
Even that pudding-like organ
of neurons and axons and dendrites
is putty in your surgeon’s hands.
But what of the spiritual core?
Is there anything left
when you run out of Latin names?
A soul?
An object so deeply embedded
that even you, with all your skills,
can’t go there?

Of course, you’re not
messing about in my cerebellum
to verify my suitability for the hereafter.
It’s that tumor that has your attention.
A vengeful God doesn’t come into your equation.
But a malignant or benign lump does.

And then hours alter
you’ve put me back together,
given me the all-clear,
I awake to a chorus
of “It’s a miracle!”
My parents, my siblings, my lover –
but not you.
Not someone who really knows me.



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

Jeremy’s First by John Grey

It’s his first time with a hooker.
Luckily, she makes the arrangement easy for him,
fills in his stutter’s gaps.

And there is none of this
quickie-behind-the-Mexican-café business.
She takes him back to her apartment.
He gets to see where his money’s going.

It’s a cozy place.
Not seedy at all.
Somewhere a real person might live.
On a dresser is a photograph
of what must be her family.
As she undresses,
he tries to figure out
which of the three little girls
grew up to be the woman in the room with him.

“If that bothers you,” I can turn it around,
she says.
For a moment, it is her life
he so wants to see turned around.

But then he begins to unbutton his shirt.
After all, he is paying for this.



John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in The Tau, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Examined Life Journal and Midwest Quarterly.