from the editors

current issue

past issues



Follow UCityReview on Twitter



John Grey



Here are my words.
They’re all I have.
I’m following this chain-link fence
all the way south.
I’ve just washed my hair
and body in the river.
I admit I talk a lot.
Especially to strangers.
But I don’t consider myself
either smart of dumb.
I drive this dilapidated, cluttered van.
It smells like the dog that died.
The road is crooked
but I’m going straight.
There’s a town up ahead.
I can just make out the steeple.
I’ll stop for a while
but I won’t find a motel.
I haven’t the money
and, besides, I prefer grass
to mattresses.
Maybe I’ll stay until Sunday. 
The tattoo artist is a friend.
We’ll speak through the bars of the jail.
I just keep on speaking.
It’s instinct.
My mind is an itch.
My tongue a scratcher.
And I find just being a person
in one place
doing the same thing over and over
isn’t enough for me.
So I roam.
Sometimes I sing.
Sometimes I groan.
And, occasionally, I’ll ask God a question.
He often takes me by surprise
by answering.
I don’t spread His word particularly,
though I always have a Bible with me.
It’s more like I spread myself.
That’s why my clothes are so threadbare.
Some wanderers always have a brown bottle near
I don’t.
With me, it’s butterflies.
I don’t carry any with me
but I expect them to be waiting
when I arrive some place.
Yes, I admire beauty,
even in its human form,
though I prefer mountains and rivers,
even humble fields of wildflowers.
I’m drawn to light like an Amaryllis.
And I take careful note of all birdsong.
I’m not seeking anything in particular.
Just everything within reason.
No, not reason. Spirit.
For mine has such tremendous torque,
can face so many places at once,
even the past, even the future.
Do I smell?
Only as human must.
My biggest sin is that
I write things on napkins
and hand them to waitresses.
They seem happy with the result.
It’s never anything evasive.
Unless a gentle poem cuts deep.
I have words today.
And maybe glassine eyes tomorrow,
as I wake on a lake bank,
the pure dirt of this world.
I’ll turn toward the sun,
lift my jagged bones,
slip out the back door of the scenery
and continue my pilgrimage.
I am a lone figure
making short steps
but long strides
in space.
My arms are empty.
But my throat is full.
I am the sign of a new nation of one.
Its king and its ambassador.
Here on Earth
but looped into the universe.

Return to list of poems

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and Roanoke Review.

Return to list of poems

copyright 2010-2020 ucity review