Yellow Mama Archives II

John Grey

Home
Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
Allen, R. A.
Alleyne, Chris
Andes, Tom
Arnold, Sandra
Aronoff, Mikki
Ayers, Tony
Baber, Bill
Baird, Meg
Baker, J. D.
Balaz, Joe
Barker, Adelaide
Barker, Tom
Barnett, Brian
Barry, Tina
Bartlett, Daniel C.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Bellani, Arnaav
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Booth, Brenton
Bracken, Michael
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Cartwright, Steve
Centorbi, David Calogero
Cherches, Peter
Christensen, Jan
Clifton, Gary
Cody, Bethany
Costello, Bruce
Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
Cumming, Scott
Davie, Andrew
Davis, Michael D.
Degani, Gay
De Neve, M. A.
Dillon, John J.
Dinsmoor, Robert
Dominguez, Diana
Dorman, Roy
Doughty, Brandon
Doyle, John
Dunham, T. Fox
Ebel, Pamela
Fagan, Brian Peter
Fillion, Tom
Fortier, M. L.
Fowler, Michael
Galef, David
Garnet, George
Garrett, Jack
Graysol, Jacob
Grech, Amy
Greenberg, KJ Hannah
Grey, John
Hagerty, David
Hardin, Scott
Held, Shari
Hicks, Darryl
Hivner, Christopher
Hoerner, Keith
Hohmann, Kurt
Holt, M. J.
Holtzman, Bernard
Holtzman, Bernice
Hopson, Kevin
Hubbs, Damon
Irwin, Daniel S.
Jabaut, Mark
Jermin, Wayne
Jeschonek, Robert
Johns. Roger
Kanner, Mike
Karl, Frank S.
Kempe, Lucinda
Kennedy, Cecilia
Keshigian, Michael
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Kondek, Charlie
Koperwas, Tom
Kreuiter, Victor
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lukas, Anthony
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Margel, Abe
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Beverle Graves
Myers, Jen
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Prusky, Steve
Radcliffe, Paul
Reddick, Niles M.
Reedman, Maree
Reutter, G. Emil
Riekki, Ron
Robson, Merrilee
Rollins, Janna
Rose, Brad
Rosmus, Cindy
Ross, Gary Earl
Rowland, C. A.
Saier, Monique
Sarkar, Partha
Scharhag, Lauren
Schauber, Karen
Schildgen, Bob
Schmitt, Di
Sesling, Zvi E.
Short, John
Simpson, Henry
Slota, Richelle Lee
Smith, Elena E.
Snell, Cheryl
Snethen, Daniel G.
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Temples. Phillip
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Varghese, Davis
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
Weld, Charles
White, Robb
Wilhide, Zachary
Williams, E. E.
Williams, K. A.
Wilsky, Jim
Wiseman-Rose, Sophia
Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zackel, Fred
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zeigler, Martin
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark

A NEW LIFE

 

by John Grey

 

Deep in the woods is a clutch of graves

and the man who killed them and buried the bodies

now dwells in a metropolis two hundred miles to the west,

where he lives with his dear, dear wife.

 

He seems right in the head now he shares an apartment,

and sleeps far from the scene of all that butchery and digging,

and the cottage, now burned to the ground, along with every bloodstain.

 

He keeps the two separate— the second floor flat, the undiscovered crime scene,

the wife that he loves and the strangers who just happened to be there.

Two worlds— one that puts food on his table, warmth in his bed,

the other where every human tic was cause for dismemberment.

 

Deep in the woods, the shadows never lift.

In the city, sun’s reliable, breaks through each morning.

All he needed was love to emerge fully from the darkness.

 

No more stabbing the irate neighbor or the coughing boy.

No slaughtering the obese woman or the girl with the stammer.

No beheading the man who looked at him oddly.

He and his wife live happily and solitarily.

Other people can safely go on with being human.






A NEW LIFE


 


by John Grey


 


Deep in the woods is a clutch of graves


and the man who killed them and buried the bodies


now dwells in a metropolis two hundred miles to the west,


where he lives with his dear, dear wife.


 


He seems right in the head now he shares an apartment,


and sleeps far from the scene of all that butchery and digging,


and the cottage, now burned to the ground, along with every bloodstain.


 


He keeps the two separate— the second floor flat, the undiscovered crime scene,


the wife that he loves and the strangers who just happened to be there.


Two worlds— one that puts food on his table, warmth in his bed,


the other where every human tic was cause for dismemberment.


 


Deep in the woods, the shadows never lift.


In the city, sun’s reliable, breaks through each morning.


All he needed was love to emerge fully from the darkness.


 


No more stabbing the irate neighbor or the coughing boy.


No slaughtering the obese woman or the girl with the stammer.


No beheading the man who looked at him oddly.


He and his wife live happily and solitarily.


Other people can safely go on with being human.




MOIRA WALKS HOME LATE AT NIGHT


 


by John Grey


 


 


It was late at night,


the streets were dark and empty


and she had the feeling


she was being followed.


 


Only ten more blocks


to her apartment house


but it seemed miles away.


 


She heard no footsteps,


no cough, no breathing


and, when she risked


a glance behind


there was nothing but shadow


in the shape of the buildings


she’d hurried by.


 


She knew she was being foolish.


Her imagination had created


some creature out of nothing,


and that was her mystery pursuer,


a figment, threatening, deadly,


but a figment, nothing more.


 


But then suddenly she did hear footsteps,


and a cough, and breathing.


She began to shake,


Her forward progress was more


of a sideways wobble.


“Is that you, Margaret?” said a familiar voice.


It was Mr. Benson,


the man in the apartment below.


She sighed with relief.


But also disappointment.


 


Her life was safe.


But her fantasies were on shaky ground.






THE HEAD


 


by John Grey


                         


 


Don't start thinking


I'm a mere parlor trick


performed by the one


who brought me here.


 


I can see and think


for both of us.


And all this without a damn thing


below my severed throat.


 


No windpipe of course.


No veins and arteries


flowing back and forth


from the heart.


A machine does the work


performed formerly by my body.


 


He's placed me on a tabletop


like a vase full of flowers.


But, instead of petals opening,


I provide, for your enjoyment,


lips like mating slugs


mouthing silent sounds.


 


Some would say


that I am not really alive,


just a simulation,


some electronic wizardry


fronted by a borrowed skull.


 


But see my eyes blink.


Watch my nose and ears twitch.


Take time to read


what my slave has written here.




CONTENTS OF THE ATTIC TRUNK


 


by John Grey


 


Moldy letters,


jigsaw puzzles,


bronzed baby shoe,


faded photographs,


Uncle Jake’s handwritten confession


to the murder of Aunt Lucy,


a moth-eaten wedding dress,


false teeth in a bottle,


a severed hand,

Aunt Lucy’s I expect.



THE DEAD MAN TO HIS HEIRS


 


by John Grey


 


The view from the coffin


is a welcome change


from what I saw


through bleary eyes


on my deathbed.


Despicable relatives,


treacherous so-called friends


and all manner of toadies


no longer hold their breath


for my last puff of air.


Now, their nerves


are on high alert,


in anticipation of the reading


of the will.


The words of comfort


are as insincere  


as a Tammany Hall politician’s.


The tears are still fake.


Even the one who smothered me


with that pillow


could give a bawling crocodile


a head start


and beat it by a lachrymose gallon.


They’ll get their share


and then their descendants,


their hangers-on,


will wait impatiently


for them to die.


They think they’re getting money.


But I will to them voracity,


distrust and hypocrisy.


Oh yes, and a pillow in the face


when they least expect it.


HOLDING OUT FOR A RAINBOW

 

by John Grey

 

It has

been raining for days.

 

The grass is green and lush

          outside

but here,

in this rank and ratty

second floor apartment,

          the fungi and mold

          sprout.

 

I sit in a kitchen chair,

elbows on table,

head in hands.

          That is,

          when I bother

          to get out of bed.

 

The slime is oozing

out through my brain.

And I’m cursed with inward eyes.



THE TIDE

 

by John Grey

 

I’m by the ocean, on the beach,

body attentive to the sun’s last rays

but mind distracted by the idea of darkness

and its promised full moon.

 

It’s a particular kind of hunger

that nature, for all its wild beauty, cannot sate.

I can only make footprints in sand for so long

before they turn into pawprints

and the trail leads away from the beach,

to where people live in their supposed fortresses.

 

Horizon streaks with blood.

Streetlamps flicker on.

I’m little changed on the outside

but, for my innards,

there’s a seismic shift.

 

I lope more than I walk.

I growl instead of speaking.

Don't be surprised if, within the hour,

I'm at your doorstep.

It’s a different world

to what God had in mind.

Civility has gone out on the tide

and I am coming in.



FOLLOWED

 

by John Grey

 

 

I can’t be at ease,

not as long

as I walk these dark streets,

tracked and followed

by a sound.

 

Call it a cough,

a clip-clop,

even a heavy breath,

it’s always back there somewhere.

 

Touch may never come into it.

I could die of what I hear.



HE KNOWS

 

by John Grey

 

 

The vampire is aware of every virgin

tucked away in cottage beds,

or in rooms above the tavern,

fifty, at least, in the village

as if they were items on a menu,

fulsome, buxom, fair-haired and blue-eyed,

each dreaming a hopeful story

like the reading and rereading of a fairy tale,

a tale that can’t survive

the lure of an open window

to the messenger of death flying by.

 

It’s an old Transylvanian fallacy

that nighttime’s as safe as daylight

with a cross between breasts,

garlic flowers hung from walls.

But each is an Ariadne’s thread

through the maze of darkness,

a sign that here is something precious,

a damsel worthy of protection.

 

But it’s an unfinished circle,

an incomplete composition,

an aura ripe for penetration.

A man of centuries

knows the lay of the land of dreams,

the grammar of soft breathing,

the rituals of fear.

Fresh blood runs like a stream in spring

and his is the perfect passion for it.



SCALING THE WALL

 

by John Grey

 

It’s crawling vertically,

and side to side.

 

The thing is

just below

your wide-open window,

about to scutter up

onto your sill.

 

It could be

a vampire

or maybe just

some kind

of venomous arachnid.

 

You could die

a slow death

or a quick one,

passionately sucked of all blood

or terrifyingly

paralyzed in a heartbeat.

 

It’s all your mother’s fault.

She only ever warned you

about married men.



ON THE COMMUTER TRAIN

 

by John Grey

 

 

Baron Frankenstein's head

is buried in an old yellowing chemistry book.

Igor sits beside him, hands fidgeting,

the ones in his large brown bag likewise.

Larry Talbot rubs his chin, wonders,

"Did I shave this morning?

Does that even matter?"

Count Dracula is primping in a mirror,

combing, adjusting, fiddling,

until he can't see a thing.

Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde

almost didn't make it . . .

a half hour trying to convince

the ticket seller they should

only pay one fare.

The Mummy just wants to

add a momentary doze

to his many centuries of sleep

but the nouveau-frightful,

Jason, Freddy Krueger, and Chucky

are being loud and obnoxious.

And the alien boards suddenly

and violently, tearing

through the ceiling of the train.

"Decrepit mansions not good enough

for you," sneers the butler

from the old dark house.

A gaggle of ogres is ogling

She-who-must-be-obeyed.

"She can give me orders any time," one snickers.

"Tiny out of the way English village"

and the invisible man departs.

The Witch-finder General gets off

at seventeenth century superstitious British Isles.

Various poltergeists detrain at American suburbia,

giant bugs at the 50s stop.

More journey. Another station.

"Fog shrouded Whitechapel in the 1880s!"

screams the conductor

A well-known artist, a member of the royal family,

a Russian sailor, a Hungarian butcher, and a Harley Street specialist,

all glance up.



PREY

 

by John Grey

 

The spirit is so weak, it’s unwilling . . .

surrounded by listening devices,

ripple-faced, hiding out in dreams,

writing notes to myself

away from probing eyes . . .

outside, the threats draw closer—

hook-clawed creatures

and the rotting smell of night.

 

How unearthly the Earth at such times . . .

health collapses, surrounds pantomime

with flickering light and wall-shadow,

enlist the thugs of darkness, buzzing insect

satellites, bizarre cannibals of the latest technology.

 

And how drawn this mouth, the last

smile from what seems centuries ago,

turned upside down, distorted,

pungent, green, warped . . .

to name just a few of my companions.

 

How pointless these defenses . . .

I turn myself inside out

and yet it’s still me, a broken toy,

the split wires of a powerline,

loveless among uncaring ghosts,

threatened by gangsters, Russians,

monsters, artificial intelligence

and barons of the black arts.

 

Now, I am a flesh and bone alarm

with a bell that rings in my head—

the sound is the same as always . . .

what bothers me is the frequency.



SCREAM

 

by John Grey

 

 

A woman screams from the house next door.

Windows rattle.

The flowers on my kitchen table fold up in an instant.

I drop the book I’m reading.

A shudder ripples through me.

 

Sure, there’s been reports of monsters in the neighborhood.

And my doors and windows are locked with bolts and chains.

But high-pitched cries can go where intruders cannot tread.

Her terror is in the room with me.

I can fight off an intruder but not the beast of sound.



THE LEAKING FAUCET

 

by John Grey

 

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The bathroom faucet leaks

and, despite his best efforts
with wrench and washer,

he’s clearly no plumber.

 

His brain sometimes resounds

with his mother’s words— 

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

But now his mind is consumed

by that persistent drop

of water on enamel.

Madness is such a shape-shifter.

 

He can terrify women,

hack up whores,

show his mother what a man he is.

 

But pipes are a maze of metal,

so many joins, so many cracks,

more weak points

than a drunken date.

 

When his mother speaks,

he can take to the streets,

the clubs, the cafes,

stalk and seduce and strangle,

show her how wrong she is.

 

But when the faucet leaks,

he’s the only victim here.



THE SILENCE

 

by John Grey

 

The silence of a place

where people once lived

is eerie, cruel even.

 

Eerie, for how much

the creak of my foot on a stair

echoes through the rooms.

 

Cruel, for how those

who dwelled here are forgotten.

so forgotten,

it’s as if they never were.

 

And the silence of a place

where people once lived,

can also be gruesome.

 

Gruesome, for the rotting,

cobwebbed, bloated corpses

hunched around the dining table,

with scraps of a rat-nibbled long-ago meal,

on cracked china plates before them.

 

But that silence

can also be reassuring.

I can move in here.

The rent, undoubtedly, is cheap.



PACING

 

by John Grey

 

By day,

you pace the many rooms

of the old manor.

 

At night,

you blow out the bedside candle,

dark clouds encumber the high window

and, as you lie back on your pillow,

pull the blanket up to the crest of your chin,

it’s time for another kind of pacing.

 

Your mind is the floor this time.

Your memory provides the footsteps.

As does your guilt.

And the ghosts.

 

Back and forth,

back and forth,

by the time you fall asleep,

your evil history

has worn a hole in your head.


 

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, U.S. resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Hollins Critic. Latest books, Covert, Memory Outside the Head, and Guest of Myself are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline, and International Poetry Review.











Site Maintained by Fossil Publications