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The Mountaintop & Other Poems

3 Poems by
John Grey


Above the tree line, winds blow other winds around.
Wildflowers flutter among their brethren.
The mountain’s details are close at hand.
But its awe expands in all directions.
Some of the mind pushes toward the sky and outer space.
The rest, stunted like the dwarf tree, roots fiercely to rock and earth.
Thin air cheats the lungs but flashes in the head
We have made our way from the gutters to the Edens of oxygen.
Clouds are sucked down like soup,
quickly dispense with human hunger
Bodies struggle to imitate the toughness of what survives here
for we have come from the land where nothing survives.
No more weak and fumbling city speech.
The voice, loud and framed by hill and valley, sounds like legend.
To think I labored in the dark and dismal cellar of the dream
and here I am in its penthouse, and no rooms, all balcony.
And the wind is not some purveyor of dead leaves, old newspapers.
It is blustering host to both climber and to stars.
It plays a golden trumpet by day, and a mournful flute at night
It the music we see with our eyes, hear with our sweat.


The waters are sunset calm.
The tide’s full reach is on display.
The moon is too new
to partake of its own reflection.

From the east-facing porch,
I watch the last of the moving lights
return to dock
bearing buckets of live lobsters.

My free hand claps.
Why not?
This is the kind of place
where everyday happenings
deserve a city boy’s applause.

I don’t cheer
the passing trucks on the highway.
I don’t salute the slaughterhouse
or the all-night factory.

But the gruff folk in their boats
sprinkle stars across the bay.
The night sky glows in perpetuity.
For these, it is a struggle to stay.


The old men in the coffee shop
are as reliable as the sun coming up.

Their bodies may be weaker
but their voices are still as loud,
drowning out the blender whir
and more circumspect conversations.

Their coffee goes cold
but that doesn’t bother them.
When they open their mouths.
it’s not to take a gulp of that brew,
but to complain about a politician,
or lambaste some sports star.

Their kids have moved out.
Their wives are more enemy than friend.
But they always have each other,
can always be counted on
to gather at the same table,
every morning,
in their flannel shirts and jeans.

I’m by myself,
trying to read the newspaper.
But Monty got ripped off by the garage.
Phil’s all worked up
over the price of his new prescription.
What’s going on elsewhere
is for my eyes only.

John Grey is an Australian poet, U.S. resident. He has been published in New Plains ReviewPerceptionsSanskritSouth Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Owen Wister Review and Louisiana Literature, among others.

Mountaintop with Lower Cascades in the distance
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