John Grey

Man and Crow

I look up and then up some more,

at the oak that truly scrapes the sky.

Or down at moss, dense and green and shaded.

from all but the most pertinacious of light.

Or into the glass of a pond,

reflection visible all the way down to its pebbles,

a fish darting this way and that.

But my gentle encroachment is interrupted

by a crow perched on a bough above

that assails me, cawing relentlessly.

Quiet, I say, please, pointless really, for he babbles on

as I examine morels like rooted sea-sponges

on whitish hollow stalks, fallen polypore,

low-branching winterberry trunk speckled with red fruit.

The bird doesn’t want me waylaying that forktail,

scoping see-through wings, thorax black with two green stripes,

abdomen black with blue tips. 

I mean no harm but the crow squawks

like a parrot flock, cusses at the very thought

of a human in his territory. “Please be quiet,”

I implore, drowning out the muted gurgle of a brook,

the rustle of bracken and wooly-haired cinnamon ferns

that hug the banks. The crow continues to take loud offence

as I reacquaint myself with the industry of colonnades

remaking their surrounds, saplings of sassafras and poplar

in the early stages of their scaling of the heights,

already strongly rooted, inching their way upward,

the sky for a horizon.  More Corvidae displeasure.

The crow just can’t help itself, warns every forest

creature of my presence – warblers winging through

high minsters, foxes in their dens, deer deep in the trees.

Please, I come in peace. Keep it down.

I kneel beside a fallen paper birch,

hollowed by time, home to a menagerie,

where dead leaves on the forest floor resemble strewn

burnt-out stars, where bear scratching

in the bark doesn’t surprise me,

But the black bird excoriates my presence,

bounces on a branch like chimpanzee,

shares his difference of opinion

with the life for miles around.

I wasn’t expecting an invitation but I’m water,

carbon, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorous,

just like a live hare or a dead skunk.

And you can find me in this coltsfoot,

in the harpsichord tingle of wind,

the yellow mats of peat moss,

the water horsetail whorled up from a ditch,

in the pond with its frog croaking, lily pad floating.


Damn you crow. I am a part of this.


"Poking Life With a Stick" - Brett Stout

College Days

I gravitate to like minds.

Then shut the door

to the outside.

To the blessed minority,

I turn my attention.


Unmoved by the traffic outside.

Not even concerned

with what’s happening the world,

A table, chairs, a mat and wine.

Plus conversation.


So many people pass through

my life.

And then I choose one.

And one chooses me.

The numbers climb,

but slowly.

We can still all fit in a room.


We make this vow

to always be close.

But we move on to other rooms

populated with different people.


And yet, we look back fondly.

Nostalgia, the room.

Its occupants,

the ones we haven’t seen in years.


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 failbetter.