John Grey

Three Poems

One-Armed Man

My eyes are drawn to where
the arm should be.
Extending from his shoulder
is a bus seat,
a shim­mer of shop window,
a third of a woman.

I don’t want to look,
even less think,
but I can envi­sion the car smash-up,
the man­gled metal,
or the sud­den shark attack,
the chain­saw mishap,
or the babe in the crib,
already disabled,
pay­ing through the body
for some now-banned won­der drug.

I stare so hard,
I’m part of it
Like this man needs,
anoth­er car idling in the background,
a sec­ond great white,
sniff­ing blood,
a back-up sharp tool
in case the first one did­n’t cut it,
anoth­er round of wonder.

he departs my line of sight,
is replaced by anoth­er man
who has two arms
for no good reason.

Scott of the Uterus

The ultra­sound was just a blur to me.
The baby remind­ed me of Scott of
the Antarctic bat­tling a blizzard
just to stay in place.
Wind swirled snow around what the doctor
claimed to be a head, a backbone.

My wife sat back like some unknown country
will­ing itself to be explored
The doc­tor did­n’t let on that something
was already mark­ing out the territory.
He just nod­ded his head, spoke
a dis­pas­sion­ate “Looks healthy.”
Doesn’t he know Scott nev­er did return?

There’s a smug­ness to doctors,
like they know they’re not at risk,
slump back in their white coats,
com­fy and cozy as suburbanites
read­ing the morn­ing paper.
“It says here, the only trace they found
were some emp­ty cans, a diary.”
Then they sip more cof­fee, mutter,
“Looks healthy.”

It’s December when contractions
put your insides on red alert.
Not only have we seen the one thought lost
but they’re wing­ing their way home.
We speed to the hos­pi­tal hop­ing that -
the res­cue dogs don’t bite, the air­lift does­n’t crash,
they haven’t dis­cov­ered the wrong guy.
The birth goes smooth­ly so it stays out
of the his­to­ry books.
It’s a boy and we call it Scott.

Map Guy

The man has noth­ing but maps in his head.
So much for eyes.
That’s the Soviet Union before the breakup
look­ing back at you.
It’s a won­der he can dress himself.
Luckily, his shirt reminds him of Asia,
his jeans are South America
but why aren’t the coun­tries marked?
And when his brain spot­lights Peru,
he whis­tles Andes pipe tunes.
When it’s Switzerland, he yodels.

He has a job… well maps must work.
He would have been a cartographer
but what could fin­gers do
that his head has not already?
Instead, it’s tend­ing bar at Danny’s
and some­how he gets the mix­es right.
Much bet­ter than coun­tries do at least.
He’s no clichéd sym­pa­thiz­er though.
He tells the har­ried hus­band to invade.
The Maginot line is weak.
A hook­er on a stool fix­es her lipstick.
It’s the British Empire all over again,
plas­ter­ing the globe in pink.

He was even mar­ried once.
Pretty she was like Europe with the coun­tries colored.
And her body was that oth­er kind of map…
relief… with moun­tains cir­cled, plains marked clearly,
forests green as hands that only know the world in outline.
He made love ten­ta­tive­ly, carefully,
like he was mak­ing the world safe for geography.


John Grey is an Australian born poet recent­ly pub­lished in Paterson Literary Review, Rockhurst Review and Spindrift, and with work upcom­ing in New Plains Review, Leading Edge and Louisiana Literature.