ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by John Grey


The forest is gray
and the hunters are orange.

The deer, bear, moose, tremble
when the leaves fall.

They hear the sharp crack of twigs,
spy heavy breath rising from thick brush.

Shots ring out
and, what doesn't fall, panics.

A fox leads its kits away
from where the sound is coming from.

A man runs toward his kill
followed by two sons



I was a stamp, licked, fastened to an envelope.
And a rain cloud, gray and as full as a bladder.
I so wanted to burst but it was never up to me.
Same when I was Abraham Lincoln. I so dearly
wanted it all to end but John Wilkes Booth chose
the time and place, not me.

I was a geranium in the moonlight. And a
crutch for an invalid but only when he decided
he needed me. I was a pill somebody popped.
And a bud doing my yellow best to attract bees.
I was neither the rooster nor the sun coming up but I
was the crow. Sadly, you couldn’t set your watch by me.

I was a seed, sometimes in a packet, sometimes in
the soil. It was up to everything else to make me grow.
And I was rudder of a boat, heading home with a storm
brewing. And I was one of the waves that broke over me
but not the one that finally sank the vessel.

I was many things, each ruled by, each dependent on,
some other thing that wasn’t me. I was a starter but not the
hand that turned the key. I was a pole but not the vaulter.
And a canary but the tunes came from elsewhere. And Robert Frost’s
pen and paper but not the man himself, maybe a word or two
in his poem, but never the whole thing.

And now I live here, with you, at the behest of the architect,
utilities, conveniences, manufacturers, farmers,
retail outlets, tradesmen, computers and decorators.
Did I mention you?  Or. more pertinently, did you mention me?



I figure
if I watch this long enough
it will do something.

Men with gloves have been by,
examined it, caressed it,
and then they left.

A dog lifted a leg
and pissed on it.

A cop kicked it
but it didn’t move.

A man came with
something similar,
figured maybe it needed
a companion.
The other sat there for a while
without incident
but then that man came back
and removed it.

It was rained on.
And seared by the sun.
And an old woman used it
as a place to sit her coffee
while she fiddled in her pocketbook.

It was assailed by passing exhaust fumes,
provided momentary shelter for a chipmunk,
helped an old woman retain her footing
when she stumbled,
and stopped a bicycle in its tracks.

Surely everything
is affected by the life
that goes on around.
So why not it?

I mean look at me.
Ten minutes sitting on a bench
five feet from it
and I’ve already written this.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.

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