ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by John Grey


Some dance until they drop.
Some blow steam
like a kettle on a hot plate.
A few are in regular contact
with a guy who tells them
all they need to know.

It’s America.
Words come out of some mouths
and are stuffed into others.
Most use soap to get the dirt off.
That isn’t always enough.

Some use sex as a blowtorch.
Some shove it down
into their underwear
where it belongs.
Not everyone loves their body.
But it’s all they can afford.

It’s America.
Not America as people
might have hoped.
But the one where you
get to live
when all other means of existence
are exhausted.

Some take to the streets.
Some crouch down in small rooms.
Some are so religious,
their devil-horns
are uprooted by crosses.

In America,
people grow politicians
in their wombs.
Or stick to their beliefs
like fridge magnets.
Or go undercover
in their own lives.

Some sing a hymn
in praise of themselves.
Some are so homeless,
not even life is their home.
A few, very few,
rise to the top,
look down, way down,
upon the last time they kept their word.

It’s America.
50 states
but an endless supply
of states of being.
At this very moment,
I happen to be standing in it.
The sky is overcast.
It’s starting to rain.
What other country can say that?



I sat in the dark movie theater
and watched lovers kiss. They did
it with style. They dragged it up
out of the quagmire of almost
losing each other and it didn't
have a drop of muck, of slime.
It was all stars. It was all those
fluorescent creatures in the deep sea.
I sat there in that enormous, dark
empty theater like I'd been stood
up by the world when it was just
your phone call and your voice doing it,
so grainy, so tiny, it barely belonged
to anyone. So I stumbled out into
the snow. And I slipped into
the bijou. And I was low and cold and alone
and the figures on the screen
were wild and hot and bursting inside
each other. After it was done, I tried
to gather up the scattered pieces
of all they'd been through
but all I could get my hands on was
the rows of seats, the fake-gold walls,
even the tiny foyer where they sold
stale candy. A wind could pick up
what they'd left behind in their fury,
blow it on to the next movie, to
reassemble in a clinch, a sigh.
But I had to drag that theater
home with me. I had to sit with it
beside the cobra-headed telephone.
I had to sleep with it in the bed
beside me. I had to watch half the
world making love to the other half
in my dreams. But without us.
So it never quite made a whole.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.¬†Work upcoming in Lana Turner and International Poetry Review.

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