Fall 2018, Volume 25

Poetry by John Grey


Yes, I’d rather be in a sublime state of nothingness
but I am lying down, head propped on pillow,
reading Goethe with tears in my eyes.
And I’m imagining labyrinthine windings.
And wall panels that could be doors to secret passageways
or maybe they’re not.
It is two in the morning and I can’t sleep.
I’m untidy. A plane wreck. Can’t find the black box.
And young Werther merely confirms that life’s a bitch.
As if that needs confirming.
I wish I knew how to forge a new identity.
But my power has been vastly exaggerated.
By me most of all.
At least my wife can dream through all this.
She is not under the bed-lamp, bombed by light.
Her fantasies have taken her over completely.
My body has been preserved in this waxy reality.
And my brain is perusing powerful memory,
the kind that gets my present situation in so much trouble.
The night is not time off for me.
It’s merely a relentless accumulation of incidents and ideas.
It’s administered by Washington, a dead father,
and a long line of serious authors, also now dead.
I try to find a place for myself but all I can contribute
is this endless, unspoken commentary.
That’s the problem. I try to approximate something.
I just can’t accept the accidental nature of being.
And I’m up to the point where Werther shoots himself in the head.
This sturm und drang is all too much for me.
Maybe I should just take a pill.
I bought a bottle from the pharmacy for such an occasion.
But I fear chemicals.
I’m not sure they have my best interests at heart.
So I’ll go on reading until my eyelids can take it no more.
And I’ll see the protagonist through to the end.
If he’s Werther, there’s a funeral.
If he’s me, sleep at last.





BIO: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.