Feature Poet: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Columbia Review, Studio One, and Tau, with work upcoming in Examined Life Journal, Midwest Quarterly, and Naugatuck River Review.

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Sex Stories

The search continues.
Your naked body’s like the jungle
of my boyhood fantasies.
Within its swamps and vines,
wild creatures and man-traps
is a lost city, full of gold and other riches.
So I press deep into thick foliage.
I have a map handed down
through the generations.
But geography’s so clinical.
I’d prefer to find it by accident.

This must be my hundredth expedition.
It’s hot and steamy in there.
Progress is difficult.
You moan like a heathen god.
The native bearers desert every time.
It gets so close, so intense,
I can’t go on any further,
with mighty strokes from my machete,
hack myself out.
Once again, no treasure.
But I’m beginning to believe
it’s all about being on safari anyhow,
that the glittering cache at the heart of it all,
once found, is really lost forever.

All this time, my Irish love,
you’re in a field somewhere,
searching for that four-leaf clover.
My advice is close your eyes,
keep looking.

*

Cat with Bird

The cat knows everything it needs to
about the bird in its mouth.
The feathered prey fought for a time,
now it’s just resigned to its fate.
The feline’s been through this before.

It does just enough to keep that poor creature
firmly grasped in its jaws.
Then it feels the loss of will,
penultimate to the loss of life.

The cat got this far on instinct.
The bird’s journey is anything but.

*

The Leaving of the Last Child

The yoke of children has been lifted,
of loud stereos, the worry of finding
porno or drugs in drawers.
You can be famous in your own house again.

It’s like the Soviet Union fell
only it’s in your kitchen. The quiet
is its headline. The neat, clean refrigerator
is the article that follows.

The economy will strengthen from now on.
Old debts won’t be repaid but no new
ones will accumulate. And you can
watch television, not compete for it.

It’s a different world now. Nobody
need be entertained. You can turn the
meal schedule on its ear, be a gypsy cab
with you your only passenger.

You can see nothing and imagine
it as infinite riches. So one hand claps . . .
big deal. A highball glass, an oldies station . . .
drunken memories singing low.

*

All Hail! Care to learn more about the prolific, small-press veteran, John Grey? Then, click on the image of John below and read this recent interview published at Magnolia Review . . .

Previous Feature: Jen Rouse

Jen Rouse has had poetry published in Crab Fat Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Poet Lore, Poetry, Southern Florida Poetry Journal, Up the Staircase, Wicked Alice, Yes Poetry, and elsewhere. She was named a finalist for the Mississippi Review 2018 Prize Issue and a winner of the Gulf Stream Magazine 2017 Summer Contest Issue. Her chapbook, Acid and Tender (2016), is available via Headmistress Press. To learn more, visit her on Twitter @jrouse and also at jen-rouse.com.

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Under Tongue

Before I go and you refuse
me the prayer of your lips
against mine, let me tell you:
I traced each lineage of herb
to the brain to the tides to
the balance and beyond.
I put the blue pill under my tongue,
the red one above. And cried
at every stoplight. On the night
I sent a message for help
and it said HELP ME
you liked something else
on Facebook instead. While I,
I went on dying.

No one who wants to die
will dial a phone number.
All of the words are already gone.
I sat above them—
like a small and insignificant god.
I felt the beauty of the word gone,
and it was cool like the silk
grain of the wood of the desk
against my cheek. And no one
hurt me there or failed
to love me. Because love
is as empty and expansive as
losing the desire to know
what it means to deserve it.

One pill, blue pill. God forgot
to explain the rules pills.

And as that breath slowed
and the body slackened
as though falling into arms
that had not opened,
I was not, and not was more
than what I am now.

*

Broken

Looks back and feels her breath
rend, the wracking sobs you opened
your arms and chest to hold until
she dissolved her suffering. Salt
into water. Blood into love.

Can’t find you in a building
full of rooms, though you pass
by her, you stand in every doorway,
your scent trapped in her throat.

Says, look at me, god, please,
look at me, I am worthy
of your attention.
But not her own.

Never meant to need or
want or treasure the small
jars of gifted herbs, your fine-boned
fingers, your thigh-anchored voice.

Made such a mistake
when she wrote the first word.
When she wrote her sadness
against your name.

*

Anne Sexton Reminds Us

Let me tell you, I had a very distinct
voice inside me, violet-eyed, named
Elizabeth. We did everything
in front of the cameras. Such
great pharaohs together. All of those
snakes between us. Isn’t it so often
about how you choose to hold
one in the end? Let me tell you,

I kissed the last so hard
poison flooded my throat–
from his couch to this coffin.
Only he forgot to leave the flowers,
no sad sad prayer shared between us,
no Antony to my Cleopatra.

Let me tell you, before my death,
they clung to me like desperate
fans to their starlet. They kept
constant track, sweet
little mice, of my drinking and
my sadness. Only other women
will do that. Whether or not
I answered the phone was
their constant companion. Sometimes,
when I finally took a call, I’d say:
O Sillies, let me tell you,
you simply have to look for me
a little longer, a little harder,
with all of your hands, with all of
your forgiveness. I am always. Your Anne.

*

All Hail! To learn more about Jen Rouse, check out her personal site chock full of upcoming events, previously published work, and artwork, like the hummingbird and heart below . . .

Previous Feature: David Spicer

David Spicer has had poems in Alcatraz, The American Poetry Review, Chiron Review, Easy Street, Gargoyle, The Ginger Collect, Midnight Lane Boutique, The New Verse News, Ploughshares, Rat’s Ass Review, Reed Magazine, Santa Clara Review, Third Wednesday, Yellow Mama, and elsewhere. The author of one full-length and five chapbooks, his latest poetry collection is titled From the Limbs of a Pear Tree (Flutter Press, 2017). David is also the former editor of raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books.

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An Actress I Knew

portrayed everyone from a Hindu
helicopter pilot to a silver dollar
dealer, tortured me with a guessing
game of her home state. “Wisconsin?”
I asked. “No. I assure you,
you’ll never discover it.” She never ate
venison for brunch or supper.
Her name? Bambi. I shrugged
when I saw her. For some reason,
she reminded me of a woodpecker
stabbing a log. Or a chicken wearing
a red hood. Her nails had little trains
painted on them. We never dated,
hadn’t entered that thriller stage
of friendship. I bought her
a Cavalier King Charles
Spaniel for her birthday,
though, and we celebrated
by eating candy bars
on a blanket above the quarry.
He licked her cheeks, and on the way
back that day—the last day
we illuminated life for each other—
the blacktop turned bumpy,
and my voice crackled
like electricity. After that we called
each other colleagues. Two weeks
later I left for Peru, where I sell
alpaca wallets and paint chess sets.

*

Resting in my Fridge

My cousin Marie, a divorced hippie
country singer, thought she’d finagle
me, a rookie disc jock, into playing
for her band: I’d outlawed her filthy
song, “Let Me Eat You in My Garden,”
from the radio. I didn’t care—
women before her tried to seduce me
by unbuttoning my wool shirt or combing
my fine hair with their long fingers.
I wasn’t ready, a lamb who scowled
after they called me a happy virgin.
And, like them, Marie thought I’d
bang the drums with a tight grip
on my sticks if she smiled at me.
Born fifteen years ago an angel
white as fleece, today, when I quit,
I left Marie a gift resting in my fridge:
wings wrapped around an artichoke
heart inside a rack of meaty bones.

*

Incidents in a Traveled Life 

My sweetheart and I shared
an up-and-down romance:
flying to Cairo after discovering
buried money for airfare,
we returned when we didn’t
have enough to buy another burger
or bacon sandwich for supper.
I doubt if we’ll ever visit Egypt
again, unless The Grateful Dead
play there. Once we ate meatloaf
in Copenhagen, where I lost
my wallet watching “Day
of the Jackal” for the tenth time.
We wouldn’t replace our visits
to world cities with anything,
not even a flashlight that finds souls
of the disappeared—souls belonging
to Earhart, Halliburton, Hoffa,
and unknown thousands.
One time we met a Mafia assassin
who rang his victims’ doorbells
before he grinned, shooting them.
Now he’s in prison watching seagulls
devour garbage. My girlfriend—
now my roommate—and I
don’t impose on each other,
unless it’s to remove hangnails,
or talk about the pyramids, the sacrifices
the slaves made for us to remember
what a miracle means to its witnesses.

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All Hail! First edition copies of David Spicer’s full-length poetry collection, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke’s Press, 1988), remain available for purchase at Abe Books. Please, click on the cover image below, and browse the selection . . .

Previous Feature: g emil reutter

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. Widely published in the small and electronic press, he is the author of nine collections of poetry and fiction. To learn more, please visit gereutter.wordpress.com.

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Lonely Nights

It was a place to go in times of trouble
drink away your haunts, failures. Pint
of beer, shot of bourbon send a round
to my beer buddies who always sent
one back. Tip the bartender who made
sure I didn’t send a drink to the wrong
gal. Chain smoke, chain drink, pint, shot
send another round out. Soon there were
fifteen markers on the bar by my beer.
Hit the head, slide on the floor, grateful
avoided a fall. At closing the door man
would chant, “Time to go,” out I went lucky
to get home, sat on the couch, mumbled
into the darkness.

*

Trina

She came to this bar for it was his bar
her eyeliner was thick, her ruddy skin
covered by foundation, her straw like
hair dyed blond. Thin frame covered
in skin tight dress, her boney knees
almost knocked. She took her place
at the bar and watched him hold
court at the corner. White Zifendel
after White Zifendel then gin after
gin, she fixed her gaze upon him.
He would point and laugh as would
his court until she stood, yelled at
him in slurred words. He grabbed
the girl next to him and walked to
the door, she followed yelling “I love
you.” The door slammed shut, she
didn’t notice the puddle on the floor
between her legs.

*

Chain Smoking Sloppy Drunk

It is a warm
September evening
and of course
unlike when it
is cold
the drunks gather
in front of
the door
they are chain
smoking and the
drama of the
evening spills out
on sidewalk,
four girls and
two guys sloppy
drunk and loud
blueish smoke hangs
in the air
above them
girls are loud
adjusting jeans as
they flirt in
slurred speech
guys take it
all in, watch
the girls
move around them
until one puts
his arm around
the wrong girl
and the other
guy decks him
girls roar laughter
walk away
guy gets up
shoves the other
both walk back
inside, just another
night of booze
and lost love.

*

Mascaro’s Alarm

I hear the announcement of morning’s arrival
diesel engine revving and revving as if a struggle
to stay alive. Birds go quiet in the trees as alarms
pierce the air, echo off the buildings. Arms unbend
steel forks slap the ground, alarms go quiet as the
forks pierce the channels in the box Glanz invented.

Constant revving and revving as the arms lift the box
over the man in the cab and then the bang and clang
bang and clang of items falling into the steel bed of
the truck, revving and revving as the packer blade
compresses along bronze shoes. The bang of the box
booms as it is dropped back into place. A brief moment
of quiet. Alarms sound again, revving and revving as
as the engine struggles once again in reverse.

The large red truck navigates it way through the small
parking lot, revving and revving, lurches onto the street.
Birds in trees sing once again, sound of leaves kissed
by wind fills the air as does the patter of rain against
windows.

*

All Hail! g emil reutter’s  short story collection, Thugs, Con-Men, Pigs & More (Red Dashboard LLC, 2014), is available for preview and purchase on Amazon. Simply click on the cover image below to learn more . . .

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