ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by John Grey


The old Chevy, rusted hulk of my early twenties,
six shattered windows in all,
gutted engine, popped trunk, ruptured seats
front and back, all available for rat’s nests.

My first date with Sandra is in there somewhere,
knotted fingers, stumbling tongue,
prolonging the embarrassment,
until it reddens my face even now.
Standing here, by the wire fence,
looking beyond the snarling Dobermans to that heap,
my confidence with women sure does rest
on some mangled-metal foundations.

Yet there’s a fascination to a time
when first car was a mobile church
with me at the steering wheel altar
and always on the lookout for worshipers.

So what if my sisters were my usual congregation.
There was always Sandra,
my blonde and blue-eyed proselyte.
Too bad, she moved on to more impressive faiths.

Knocked about, scraped and dented,
tires flat, bumper bars flattened,
and yet it once got me around.
So what if I didn’t get anywhere.



I don’t know why I do this.
This may have its reasons but it doesn’t tell me.

I just do it.
Day after day after day, I do it.

I’m not even sure what it is.
Maybe it is not completely sure about me.

But here we are, me and this and it,
together in the one swivel chair,

manipulating the same fingers,
tapping equally on the keyboard,

making words appear on the screen.
I know what a word is.

The text of a vocal composition.
This figures it’s not that simple.

It agrees that it’s not simple.
It wouldn’t be it otherwise.

They hold out for imagination,
the power to form a mental image

of something that does not exist
in reality.

I do know what reality is.
It’s where ideas go home to die.

It and this are always up for a little rhythm,
that alternation of the strong and weak.

And they just love a metaphor.
In their perfect world, everything is something else.

What I do know is that, without me,
it and this would not exist.

Sometimes that gets in their craw and they just quit
Like now. Like now.


The priest couldn’t be more certain
than if he was talking from beyond the grave.
Heaven or hell awaits us all
and, by this, the congregation
should know the grades required
to get into one or the other.

I’m sitting in the sixth row from the altar.
My wife is beside me.
I wish I was as convinced as the man
with the collar around his throat.
Based on what I know,
once we die, that’s it.
It’s over. Finis.
No lolling about in some visual version
of the Pastoral Symphony.
No sweating like a hippo
in eternal fire. 
My wife is holding out for the former.
She shuts down
when the monsignor gets to the part
about damnation.

Even if there is a heaven and a hell,
it’s lot to ask of us
to believe in them.
We’re limited by our senses.
Faith is fine.
I have faith in airplanes.
I have faith in our soldiers
when they go to war.
But airplanes crash.
Soldiers die.
So faith is not fine.

I say the prayers.
I put money in the collection box.
I do my part
but it’s like buying tickets
for the next AC/DC tour.
You don’t even know if it will happen.
And, if it does,
who’ll be the lead singer.
I mention the AC/DC analogy to my wife.
She says she doesn’t like heavy metal.

I shake hands with the priest
at the top of the stairs.
“God be with you,” he says.
I so want to ask him
if he has more proof of
what lies beyond this mortal coil
than he is letting on.
But my wife is behind me
and she wants a handshake too.
And there’s others to the rear of her.

I’m in a hurry anyhow.
I’ve a lawn to cut.
A roof tile to fix.
The afterlife must wait
for after life.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review. His work has appeared in several issues of this journal.

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