The city suffers from the bipolar neuron,

as just when emptiness fills the sky

atop the office towers, stars ignite –

all Providence glows


from constellations, real and manufactured,

threads of headlights, flashing wares

of steak houses, floor to sky hotels –

I am a low-key astronomer.


Commuters amble toward parking lots,

clubbers take their place,

neon wages its war of independence with the galaxy,

wants all of the city for its own.


So here’s the people, already in their dance,

some lined up in the bulb spray

of the Performing Arts Center’s marquee,

others decoding side street graffiti.


A woman on Washington

sways her braided crown,

stamps her legs like fetlocks

in anger at her fancy man.


She heads one way, he another.

I stop and then move on.

The bars, the clubs await the flies, the lizards,

and maybe, just maybe, an angel or two.


The air becomes bifocal,

one view, the spectra of night

the other, brilliant gold

to make the dark seem safer.


The city opens and shuts,

streets stretch wide then narrow.,

the inferno is bright when its not deep black,

the gutter shuns and beckons.


Stray cats, I can sense them

slip away to deeper alleys,

hide behind trashcans,

figure our kind never leave.





When the inmates got rowdy

in the shower,

thumped rivals against cement walls,

or dropped them to the floor,


kicked their teeth into 

bloody swirls for good measure,

and the guards stood by,

hands pressed against their truncheons


like they were Colt 45’s,

the one who read books silently

in his cell said and did nothing.

But he remembered a page


from Thomas Malory 

or was it Tolstoy.

No it was Robert Burns.

“Man’s inhumanity to man


makes countless thousands mourn”

though, in this case, it was just the one.

But then he remembered 

what it was he was in for.





I do not know how to explain chemo properly.

On inhibiting mitosis, I can barely converse.

Besides, the discomfort has a great dislike

of being interrupted. I prefer solitude if you must know.


So my body disintegrates but my tongue does not loosen.

My motto is why say anything

when there is no way of knowing what to say.

Everything is changing from moment to moment anyhow.


The point of sickness is that no one can have an opinion.

Skepticism is wisdom. Positivity is just foreshadowing.

So I am sitting by the window looking out at people parking cars.

How smoothly they fit their vehicles between the lines.


Ah, if only that were medicine.


© John Grey


Bio:  John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, the Hawaii Review and Visions International.