Previous Feature: 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.
The Tough Times and The Bad Times
She’s seated on stage,
at least the makeshift kind
that only a coffee house can provide,
in a simple black dress,
gaunt face, pale lips,
her hair cut women’s-prison short,
a pile of papers flopped across her lap.
Half the tables are occupied.
Some people chatter.
Others try to be courteous, hold their tongues
while she reaches for the first poem
of the evening’s reading.
Her voice is high and shrill
and the work is the closest words ever come
to self-flagellation, raw and bitter,
miserable, suicidal even.
Men are like cat o’nine tails in disguise
is a typical theme.
It’s the first time anyone in the audience
has ever heard “penis” used as verb.
Even women are no more than torture implements.
And family are a penal colony
so good luck with that.
After a half hour of this,
the talk becomes louder,
the attentive ones are ready
to slit their own throats.
She then thanks the audience
for their scattered applause,
gathers up her papers,
slips out of the coffee house and into the night.
“Imagine going home to that,” somebody says loudly.
Chalk one up for poetry’s feel-good effect.
A Night Out
in the moon—
Jenny lolls on the step,
stretching her legs
so that her sequined shoes
can snare a little of that light—
her past is parked on blocks
but her future’s made for dancing
for tonight at least—
no day would be so foolish
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