ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by John Grey

Alligator Cry

The alligator mating cry
is like a belch played through a tuba.
As you slowly paddle through
the mangrove swamp,
that eerie irrupt is all around you,
yet not one reptile shows itself.
Heat marshals its resources,
steams your neck, chest and arms.
Your brow breaks out in watery pellets.
Your brain throbs like a hiccup in your head.

The Everglades are murky, ominous, turgid.
The beauty around you takes some explaining.
The way through is never less than arduous.
And it is no longer muscle that propels your forward
but a trembling, not a concern for your life exactly,
but the fear of the trespasser.
For all your weathered skin, keen eye,
fluency with an oar,
this is not your wilderness.
And it's the time of year
when alligators are driven to make more alligators.
You know that will only work
if there's less of everything else.


He's Still the Guy She Married

Yes, he crawls home in the morning,
weary and bewildered,
hands drenched in blood,
but, when he crawls into bed,
she's always there to comfort him,
despite the stains he leaves on her nightdress.

When he wakes in the afternoon,
there's no interrogation,
no questioning as to where he's been
and who with,
or why there's a trace of red in his eye
and the smell of raw meat on his breath.

There was a full moon last night,
and a change came over him,
to his features, his body, his passions,
and he rushed out into the night
for his usual gory rampage.
But she knows what he is
and loves him anyway.
So there's something canine
growling and howling,
hungry and vicious,
deep in his psyche.
That only makes him even more human.       


On Coming Across a Snake

In rooms behind my brain,
during a sudden inquiry into my existence,
interrogators dangle snakes before my eyes,
the forked tongue flutters,
its body flops in and out of failed coils,
as eyes impeach
and poisoned fangs
blaze like trees afire –

the portals of ideas
close shut –
only a solitary, trembling closet remains –
demented and drooling,
assigned to ophidiophobiacs.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

His work last appeared in Offcourse #72.

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