‘Our Little Town’ and ‘Eyes Closed’

John Grey


There goes the hunchback
stumbling through winter snow,
trailed by giant rats,
thirteen in all,
bearers of plague.
A black cat crosses their path.

The sailors are home
from another season of drowning,
pale and skeletal,
humming their shanties
up and down the winter hills.

A solitary witch floats
through the sky.
The cross-eyed dog
bites its own back leg.
A leper cries out
from his basement apartment.
The mad farmer,
armed with haying fork,
is off to do battle.

The hunchback won’t starve.
He’ll devour the rats if hunger so demands.
The cat is sick.
In its dreams, it licks the hand of the ferryman.
The sailors gather in the town square,
beneath the icy gray memorial.
In turn, each bony finger
presses deep into its own name.

The witch has overdosed on mandrake,
spins out of control,
crashes into a snowbank.
The dog starts chewing on its front paws.
The leper grips his window bars.
He backs away but his hands remain.
The mad farmer
challenges the bug-eyed scarecrow
to a death-match.

The hunchback climbs to the top of the church tower,
screams “sanctuary!”
Rats devour the bell ropes.
The cat passes away painfully
on the altar.

The sailors are off on a drinking rampage.
Their torsos light up
with a fountain of rum.

The witch stumbles to her feet,
casts spells in all directions.
The dog is eating its way
up to its out-of-sync eye-balls.
The leper spits green bile
on the white sidewalk.
The scarecrow strangles
the mad farmer,
then pins him to a tree trunk .
with his victim’s fork.

It’s a bitter night in January.
We don’t dare leave our homes.
We’ve jackets enough to keep out the cold.
But the rest, we haven’t the stomach for.


To avoid sightings, you squeeze your eyes
as tight as a strangler’s rope, cling to the
sanctity of a darkness that’s under your control,

even as cemetery mold poisons your nostrils,
and hollowed-out cries beg at your ears,
and wind-finger-touch is inexhaustible,

and you bear the weight of dark clouds,
heavy moon, and worms wiggle in your shoes,
a bat alights in your thatch of hair,

You refuse to see whatever’s out there.
But it can see you. And in an unexpected
encounter, it only takes the one.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Existere, Blueline and International Poetry Review.