23 or 50 – John Grey

23 or 50

It is expected that people will die.
The crowd get me out of bed, watch me scratch my ear.
My sheets have all the makings of a crime scene.
People wade through my ruins. They want to hang me from the sky.

Go about your business, I silently tell strangers. Or, it’s raining, reach for your umbrellas.
Who am I? I’m a nobody. I don’t have all the moves.
I slip out of a window now and then.
Of course, I could have been big. Big as Michael Jackson. As Sting.

It’s a kind of meanness that we do not live forever.
If I were ten thousand years old, I’d have a billion now.
Instead, I scrape myself off the floor of the night shift,
follow the road ribbon home. I can’t explain how I live.

I’m in the bookstore, mutely explaining to the young girl in the next aisle
that the novel in my hand is the one she should read next.
I am so predictable. I wish there was a key.
I swim near the rip and yet I hold my tongue in supermarkets.

My life’s a constant stream of advice, criticism, warning and reflection.
Sure, I keep it to myself. But there’ll come a time when I’m done hearing it.
The ambulance is an unfinished business. Three in the morning is where it comes from.
A man about to celebrate his 50th birthday yawning wide for me

Simulacra stretch out at my feet like the sea.
There is the day I learned of your death at 23
and I was left alone in a room with six walls and counting.
The sort of language the silence spoke sliced me in two.

I was shot at point blank range, my accent bloody and spreading.
I wept like a woman twice my age.
My tears are preserved between my work and my lack of sophistication.
I’m young. Wherever I go, the road invents itself.



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.

Read ‘Post never never land’ also by John Grey here.


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