two poems


Big Town

The city never was safe.

It wasn’t just the traffic,

cars lined up like archers,

foot hovering over the accelerator

like a stretched bow,

dumb kid with a target

on his tattered tee-shirt,

his ragged jeans.

And nor was it only about the air,

that toxic carnage

from exhaust, chimney stack,

even the foul breath of the

stumbling drunkards,

some of whom we knew.

Muggers weren’t the half of it.

Nor were drive-by shooters,

their spray of bullets

barely grazed the top ten terrors

of the rambling night circus.

The city was all people,

too many in one place.

You could choke on the inference.

The competition for the merest space

stabbed you through the heart.

Just trying to be who you were

made you vulnerable

to all these others, grasping, growling.

clinging, creeping, crawling,

craving their identities.

The city was dangerous.

It was madness crammed into

every unsuspecting head.

It was a torture implement

wielded on our neighbors, on ourselves.

It was a beast let loose,

the devoured in its gut

crushed in buses, cramped in doorways,

staring in windows, glaring in eyes.

Nobody survived it.

Everybody said they did.

Morning Rush Hour

No longer does the city float like light on water,

precipitate, bright, hot, it spreads convulsively

refusing to surrender, one block, one tenement,

old night ablaze, from hellish tar, it boosts its face,

heaps it together, flings it away,

it looks out on itself: there’s it’s tempered, there it wakes,

there it rakes in the budding day.

The glossy buildings sign on, brittle

but imperious and at a haughty height,

white, sun blazing, spears of heat in all directions

within the stifling gridlock of its cars, its saddled strangers.


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.