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by John Grey



Got Them Karaoke Blues


What I wanted was to get away from caterwauling karaoke singers,

the massacred golden oldie, the merciless Mariah Carey imitation,

to float above the earth if that’s what it took, listen in on the clouds,

beyond the inflated estimations people have of themselves,

assured that my thoughts would not be interrupted, even by other thoughts,

but I was stuck in the club, party to the shrieking crow

and the belching hippo – were I a dog I would have bit out their tonsils.


What I longed for was to gain elevation with each assault on my ears,

float out of this world on the sweat of strangers,

find myself a level where microphones and lyrics on screens were unknown,

a place so amazing that it ceased to amaze,

adrift on a breeze but not of the wailing kind

but I’m with someone and she’s waiting her turn

to perform her usual undisciplined rendition

of “I Will Always Love You”.


I must confess that she has it in her to take me to these wonderful places

that I have already mentioned.

For she will always love me.

But there’s a limit to the ways I wish to know that.




a line, (a short blue one)



The Magnolia Tree


Beyond the house, on the western side,

the magnolia tree

both slowly grows and quietly survives


for a miracle powers its roots,

and pluck, trunk-thick,

and branch-spread,

stands it in brave stead

in bark-peeling summer heat,

or through the barbarous blasts of winter.


It’s in the best interests of my hurried day

to observe my stalwart neighbor,

take heed of its instinctive courage,

mimic its tethered movement,

take rest in its timeless shadow.

All the ingredients

compound in its hard and heavy wood.

It is life a hundred times over.




a line, (a short blue one)



The Housepainters


Late afternoon, headed home from school,

I stop to stare at the side of wall

awash with angels in white smocks, brushes for wings,

flying in place on secured scaffolding. 

The scene is tranquil, serene, a golden moment

as dark creeps in but sunset burnishes

the last swathes of color spread across shingle,

the back of five heads glowing in the dusk.

I share a moment with my soul ascending

even if the afterlife is a solitary rooftop.

People figure theirs is a dangerous trade.  

Dangerous? With heaven so near?  



a line, (a short blue one)



How I Turned A Student Into A Zombie


Anna's brow was sorer

for escaping from my head -

here, there, in cahoots

with this latest lecture series

mere interlopers,

taking from my brain,

crooked tunnels,

flags of two worlds


but ushered in,

wondrous in their wildness –


Anna stood just where you are -

all destiny and tribulation,

cramped articulation,

moodiness tiny fires,

articulate as plowshares

as barren and joyless

as the brooding know-all night




a line, (a short blue one)



Explaining My Heart To You


My heart is a tossed salad - I hope you like greens.

My heart is a rusty, abandoned railcar -

the graffiti says it all.

My heart is a field of wheat - tossed about

with just the merest breath of wind.

My heart is the dying embers of a fire -

some glow, a little warmth,

but not enough to stave off real bitterness.

My heart is like a child who will eat

nothing but what's bad for him -

please, keep on with the spoon-feeding.

My heart could play drums in a jazz combo -

its beat is more syncopated than steady.

My heart is an annoying yapping dog -

anything for attention and yes, it chews the rug.

My heart is a gasbag - poem after shameless poem.

My heart is dead ringer for a painting of Jesus

by artists who had no clue what the man looked like

so stand and stare like you're really appreciating

that big, sloppy organ.

My heart is the guy who prefers 'Godfather III”

to the first two - it impresses those who haven't

seen any of the trio.

My heart is generous to a fault - so why don't

the faults ever thank it?




a line, (a blue one)


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