John Grey ~ Two Poems

Like Day and Night

By day, the river’s for fishing.
Or canoeing.
Or swimming.
No bod­ies bloat up to the surface.

But by night,
it’s a float­ing graveyard.
A car­cass bobs against the banks.
An old man and his dog come across it
and call the cops.

Whole fam­i­lies come out for picnic’s
in summer.
The guys guz­zle beer.
The women make sandwiches.
The kids play.
Everyone in the family’s account­ed for.

So who is it
that holds her head under,
once the shadows
bury the land with their breadth?
Or jumps from the bridge
as the cars splut­ter down
to nothing?

Midnight waters
couldn’t be more different
than the shim­mer­ing promise of morning,
the relief of a red-skinned late afternoon.

Sure, there was a kid drowned once
around noon time.
But it was an accident,
You could sense the stream apologizing
as guys pulled the kid from the water.

Die after night
and it’s like the river
has achieved its purpose.
Take a look at the washed-up corpse.
No ques­tion that dark­ness was involved.


My India

A camel up close and piled with goods and people.
Everywhere cows, as grace­ful as ele­gant, as bony sunken bel­lies can be.
Calves trail­ing in their wake, step­ping in and out of bak­ing patties.
Every mov­ing vehi­cle with men and chil­dren cling­ing on its sides.
Fruit bats hang­ing upside down from eaves.
Persimmon smells, every spice known to man.
Golden, sari-draped women and tur­baned Sikhs.
Canvas hats, fine silk raps.
Packs of wan­der­ing, wild dogs hunt­ing for scraps.
Rickshaws kick­ing up dust and gray leaves..
Monkeys scur­ry­ing across the ground, leaping
into trees, bound­ing from branch to branch.
Every place stuffed with people,
some try­ing to squeeze out,
oth­ers forc­ing their way out.
Signs of the Raj. Signs of the new.
Air full of smoke and incense.
Fakir with legs coiled, sit­ting on the sidewalk,
repeat­ing the names of his gods.
Young men and women at the out­side café,
heads bur­rowed in cell phones,
Slow brown riv­er of barges and bathers
Trucks stalled for miles on a dirt road
while a water buf­fa­lo stands it stub­born ground.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US res­i­dent. Recently pub­lished in That, Dalhousie Review and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcom­ing in Qwerty, Chronogram and fail­bet­ter.