Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Side effect’ and other poems

By: John Grey

Photo by Mathias Reding on


I get down on my knees
and smell wildflowers.
What started as
as a childhood curiosity
is now habit.
Colorful or plain,
my nose isn’t particular.
In its time,
it’s breathed in
everything from
breathtaking purples
to plain whites,
from the lushest,
the showiest,
to the most demure.
Some offer rich perfume.
Others barely register
on the sensory scale.
But they’re wildflowers.
All they’ve got going for them
are their looks
and their fragrances.
They do their best
to attract pollinators.
Poets are
the occasional side-effect.



It has to be better
than staring at the blank television screen
with a half-eaten packet of Cheez-its
in my hand.
Or wondering where I put
the remote while reaching down
between the cushions
and finding an ancient gumball.
I mean I’m even considering
how much wiping that piece of candy
would need to make it edible again.
How bad is that.
And sure I’m tired.
But it feels more like my decision
than any actual physical condition.
Yeah, compared to sit here
and do nothing,
get up and go
really does sound enticing.
But get up how?
And go where?
I remember, as a kid,
being home alone
when a burglar broke into the house.
stole all the silverware.
And the money in the coffee jar.
I was so scared,
I didn’t budge,
didn’t make a noise.
So maybe there’s a burglar
in the house this minute.
And he’s stealing the ‘get up’,
purloining the ‘go’.
And I gotta be scared
‘cause I just popped another Cheez-it.



I study at the water line.

I suck on every straw within my mouth’s reach.

Everything from the gutter to a clanging fire engine
indicates (or is that implicates) some facet of my life story.

My understanding is a dead man.

I rework a sudden splash until it almost turns me upside down.
I would like nothing more than to let a cop off with a warning.

I write what you would never catch me saying.
Artistic license has a tendency to gag my throat.

Sorry, no more tips, no more pats on the back.
I prefer the sit at home and await the repercussions.

Everything reverts to silent night
when the superstar has left the station.



Fishing for bass in the County Reservoir –
more of what I cannot have.
Reminiscing over the soft flesh
of Alberta’s drowsy throat.
I do believe a fish is looking up at me
through the shimmering surface,
pokes out the tongue it does not possess.

I sit here, in the early morning,
with the old men,
the ones whose romantic lives
are now as hard and black as lumps of charcoal.
We all cast our lines.
We are as still, expressionless as statues in museums.
The fish are boisterous, fun-loving teenagers
in Justin Bieber t-shirts in comparison.

Alberta, I’m lost in light and reduced to stiffness.
I’m trying to manipulate a bass’s brain
by dangling a free meal before its eyes.
Yes, I am a great lie in the making:
the one who said the breakup didn’t matter
under the merciless gaze of the surrounding scenery.
There’s something about fishing –
the casting, the lure, the sudden bite, the reeling in.
But it’s not the something that’s about love.
I am not good at this.
But am I good at anything?
You told me you belong to nothing and to no one.
You were simply of your own accord.
The old men are pertinent company.
Their hands are frozen around their rods
to match their expectations.



There are no more globes.
The continent, the countries,
mountains, rivers and oceans,
live on a flat screen.
But a boy’s hand can no longer touch them.
There’s a shine to the world
but no feel.

I can remember running fingers
all over Africa,
from the Sahara to the Cape,
the Horn to the Ivory Coast.

And I loved to spin it,
mostly slow like a benevolent god,
but sometimes fast
as if I were an angry one.

Asia, the Americas,
would spend time in my light
and then turn from my view into darkness.
Then they’d reemerge,
no different than before,
for as long as my enthusiasm lasted.

That Globe may have been made
in a Taiwanese factory
but I could see the world through a creator’s eye.
Try doing that with your pixels.

For the earth is not for the eyes alone.
It has always been hands on.



Always had books.
Have them now.
Shelves sag until they hurt.
Volumes are pressed so tight together
they can read each other.
Sure I’ve got a stereo.
And a television.
But that’s technology.
It doesn’t furnish a house.
Books do that.
An inexhaustible supply.
More books than I could read in a lifetime.
If that isn’t an enticement for reincarnation
then I don’t know what is.
Sure some are trash.
But most are treasures.
Lots of tartness.
A little sweetness.
I discovered the words “ergo” and “transcendental” in books.
We’re together to this day.
In some houses, especially those of my mother’s family,
bearing children was a substitute
for dipping into Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
I too was caught up in the ebb and flow of little people
but somehow I made my escape.
Actually, I eloped…with books.
In the lingo of past generations,
there was no such thing as a spare bedroom.
Every inch was space was slept in.
In my parlance, a spare bedroom is referred to
as a personal library.
Guests get more Dickens
than they do sleep.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, 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 Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.

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