“Call this a kind of hopeless bondage”: Four poems by John Grey

Economics 101 – Convenience Store Robbery

Two guys in ski masks,
one brandishing a gun,
burst into the convenience store
make the cashier lie down on the floor,
grab the money from the till
and drive off.

The cashier calculates in his head
how much they took,
how many convenience stores
they could feasibly rob in a week,
comes to the conclusion –
jeez, they make less than me.

And then you have to buy the gun.
And the ski masks.
And the gas,
And there’s the wear and tear on the getaway car.

Cashier gets robbed of his dignity,
makes up for it with math.



Regarding a first date –
dance like zombies in a video flick?
go see a movie with subtitles?
eat at a restaurant where chopsticks
are de rigueur?

And what about
take her back to my place,
give her the dime store Martha Stewart tour
of my humble apartment,
leaving the room
that sets off all those jackhammers
and guitar strummers
to the very last?

Of course,
the classics are front and center
in my small library.
And a fancy art book
occupies half the coffee table.
And the bed’s been made
for the first time in a month.

And music on the stereo –
Debussy, the famed French aphrodisiac.
Not forgetting wine –
the struggling connoisseur’s fallback.

And again
regarding a first date –
pose like false sophisticates?
prowl around each other like big cats in heat?
maybe just talk, get to know each other,
make plans for the next time –
wait – forget the question mark –
this is how it is.


The City and the Bridge

The city late at night is as unreal
as a church spire
pointing the way through factory rooftops.

Indifference piles on
with empty buildings,
the shine in their glass eyes
more lumens than waits,
untrodden sidewalks,
and a total absence of traffic.

The slow sewer-hued river
slops against its banks
as it staggers drunkenly toward the bay
Moored boats thump their dock uneasily.
By day, they’re gondolas.
But at night, dark and dreary,
they remind me more of
veterans from Ganges funeral rites.

I’m following the waterside path
to the Point Street Bridge,
a hunchbacked span
rusted by moonlight,
its ghostly humorless arch
not Lego for lovers
but a prison for the homeless
who sleep against its pylons,
behind street-lamp striped bars.

The place feels so lonely
that either my archangel drops down
from the dubious clouds
or I’m rendered invisible,
in fact as well as thought.

Call this a kind of hopeless bondage
to which only a loner submits.
Yes. a soulless man could jump from that bridge.
But he could just as easily walk toward it.


Dawn Across The Bay

A gripping orange-red interstice
relieves sea surface of all umbra.
What was once scattered lanterns
is now light enough for all.

My eyes arc keen with this fresh identity,
albedo wave caps
and, hugging the docks,
the diffuse reflectivity of fishing vessels,
and sailboats like shards of shell
from the broken cosmic egg.

There’s promise of a bountiful joy
in the bobbing Eos prelude,
skippers and crew, bird and fish,
await their signal – pull up anchor.

When was the last time
I truly saw something begin,
when it was my unspoken word
that seemed to get it going?

The captains may think
they’re in command.
But, in my world,
it’s the stowaway who gives the orders.


john grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Qwerty, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and elsewhere.

Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review:

“You must be proud of the scars”: Four poems by Cat Dixon

“I remember my brother’s sudden screams”: Three poems by Yvonne Morris

“Bones are not love-handles”: Four poems by Kuhu Joshi



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