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by John Grey




What The Dog Knows


Alligators sun themselves

in suburban waters

while, in a backyard that slopes down

to a creek,

a boy cuts a birthday cake

into awkward slices,

soon joined by others his age

emerging from a bounce house,

as parents either blow up balloons

or retrieve scattered gift wrapping.

Close by, a copperhead

slithers across the lawn,

concealed by shadow.

Mosquitos move on from dead pools

in search of human flesh.

Maybe the two older kids

tossing a frisbee.

Or the old man who sits

in a chair away from the others,

the family patriarch that everyone ignores.

Only a small dog

moves between the two worlds,

but his happy yap

and fearful yap

sound much the same

to anyone who listens.

“There’s stuff out there

and it’s dangerous,” he says.

“Family is kind and warm

and good for the soul,” he also says.

And then there’s a third yap.

“There isn’t a damn thing

keeping them apart.”




a line, (a short blue one)



The Thief



high noon,

crowded sidewalk,

guy grabs a woman’s purse

and starts running,

yet nobody pursues,

for the woman’s in shock

and everyone else

is in a different hurry,

and only the thief

knows what he needs to do,

which is snatch and hightail it,

for a couple of bucks,

some coins,

and a maxed-out credit card,

but it’s worth it to the guy –

for a moment there,

he’s the only one who knows




a line, (a short blue one)



Trunk And Spider


The trunk is still and solemn as a coffin.

but a cobweb veils the attic window.

Wind blows through the cracks,

blows the threads around

but can't undo what the spider has weaved.


The trunk is mostly forgotten

by those living on the floors below.

But, in the creep of light across dusty air,

the spider centers his masterwork.




a line, (a short blue one)



A Strange Death


I’m here with my wife, her stepmother,

stepsisters, burying her father.


The air is dank as it always is for funerals.

Drizzle drips down faces.


Kids fidget. The end of one life

can barely corral the ones just beginning.


Most of us stare blankly.

I’m doing my best to conjoin my feelings


with those of my wife,

but the result is only moderately successful.


I’ve learned the man backwards through his daughter,

every reaction tempered by tales


of the two of them, single dad and teenager,

scraping by after her mother died.


That’s still not enough for insight,

to regret his passing, to gauge the emptiness


now he’s no longer in the world.

My wife grips my hand, presses it tight.


Once she held his hand, squeezed it hard.

That grip remains unknown to me.




a line, (a short blue one)





There is a woman swimming in the dry river

and a man at the hardware store

looking for the toy department.

An old lady is actually, like the old song,

singing in the rain.

And two guys are walking up and down the street

carrying a door.

A boy is dressed as Santa Claus in summer.

A little girl wears a sign around her neck

that reads, “Beware the antichrist.”

None of these are the real kooks.

We’ll meet them later.



a line, (a blue one)


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