ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by John Grey


Waters rise.
There go the photos.
The deluge grabs
weddings and vacations,
escapes through a broken window.

Childhood is gone.
So are relationships.
Woman, man,
mother, son,
are pillaged by brown water.

So where’s your history now?
A drowned man floating?
Another dead fish washed up on the shore?

Even as the flood recedes,
no point to looking.
All lives are tangled up.
There is no separation.

Yet people scour the dank streets
looking for themselves.
The best they can do
is bump into one another.



Here is the beach that so few know about,
hidden away by rocks,
invisible from above,
reached only by the ones
aware of its existence,
a small patch of sand
with its requisite number of abandoned shells,
driftwood and kelp,
but with more than enough room for me
to spread my towel,
spread myself like a sun-angel,
read a book within the caring breath
of warmth and solitude,
tan just enough to color my pale skin,
and listen to the gentle splash of waves.

I’m often on my own in a crowd
but, in this place, the surrounds work with me.
There’s no time dedicated to threading my way
through a sidewalk mob,
or avoiding loudmouths at a party
or struggling to put up sound barriers
amid the cell phone jabber of a coffee house.
My thoughts hold center stage.
They’ll even step aside if I’m not
in the mood for thinking.
This is my outdoor den,
my open-air man cave.
Everybody leaves me alone.
Best of all, they don’t know they’re doing it.



Madam Dolores is outfitted
in her gaudiest fake-Gypsy attire,
scarf barely covering her mop of black ringlets,
huge round earrings stretching her lobes,
bright red lipstick,
multi-colored dress fluttering
from the wind off the fan.

Amy gives the woman her hand.
Madam peers knowingly at the life-line,
the heart-line, the money-line,
nods and mutters to herself for five minutes
then assures Amy she can look forward
to twenty years of happiness and good fortune.

So the gypsy says
it's the good life from hereon.
And her husband vows
to adore her until the end of days.
And the priest assures her
that heaven awaits.

Self-delusion, flock mentality,
and it's all there in her palm.



This is better.
Everything is in its turn,
picks me up along the way.
April's plagiarizing last April
but who cares.
Every scrap of ice is melted.
The wind is tired from
blowing through the unprotected,
calms to breeze,
occasionally to the stillness we deserve.
Down woodland trails,
spring rolls through leaf traffic.
In fields, flowers stay open
not just for the hum of insects
but because the undefeated army
of January, February,
are out and sniffing.
Tree trunks nudge the next ring ahead.
Grass shakes off its bronze.
We've all got our reassurances.
Elements out of the way,
thoughts can even turn to love.
Yes, another winter done with.
Let's take up our posts.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Rathalla Review. 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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