Poems by John Grey




Today, we fly south,

a week in Florida,

a respite from the chill,

the job, the stress,

seven whole days

of basking on a beach,

sipping margaritas

and, with my doctor well out

of earshot,

whatever suits my hunger.


Off come the shackles,

the regimen, the rigors,

replaced by ill-fitting swim trunks,

flowery shirts

and chest-glistening oil.


If I was Gaugin,

there’d be no conditions

on my freedom

like the fact that my ticket’s

a return.

I’d be on this lifetime vacation

in Tahiti

but I lack the nerve…

and the oil paints.


So a week it is

and then

back to all I thought

I was escaping from.

The dictionary defines vacation

as a respite, an exemption,

a suspension.

To me it’s life’s codicil.

Temporarily modifying.

Permanently overruled.




It can’t be her but it is.

The hair’s cut just below the ears.

The eyes are green

but without sparkle.

Rose cheeks have withered.

Throat and chins have doubled.

The body’s left its old curves way behind.


She looks at me,

gaze equally bewildered.

Yes, I’m in here somewhere.


And yet, the more we talk,

the more familiar everything becomes.

The faces, the shapes,

aren’t so different anyhow.

When we speak of the old days,

we grow younger by the minute.


“Remember when…”

“What about…”

“And then we…”


We hear voices

loud and clear

and convincing.

We know these people.




A noun is something real.

A lion is a lion

whether in a cage in the zoo

or stalking antelope on the savannah.

And a cop is a cop.

One pulled me over for speeding

and his uniform, his badge,

left no doubt as to exactly what he was.

Not a priest. Not a kangaroo.

But a c-o-p cop.


A verb though is something else entirely.

Yes, I can stare directly at a verb in action

but there’s still no guarantee

I won’t mistake loving for hating,

or giving for taking.


Adjectives are easier to deal with.

I may get them wrong

but it’s no matter.

The woman I call lovely

may actually be shrewish.

The kind face could be cruel.

They’re personal opinions

so who can disagree?


Adverbs I could care less about.

They’re leeches, nothing on their own.

Not an elephant or a building

among the lot of them,

Prepositions are too insignificant

to worry about.

And pronouns are just the opposite –

too huge, too everywhere at once,

to get a bead on.


For example, you used to be a noun – woman.

But now you’re you – a pronoun –

though you think you’re really I.

When I try to make sense of this

I end up in confusion – which is a noun –


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