Poetry / Poets / Writers / Writing

Poems by Owen Gray


I’m a child starving
under the banquet table
of the fattening thieves.
I’m staring up the dresses
to find a fuzzy-eyed spy
who’ll feed me scraps
before she slides
to my side
so we can point fingers
at the fuzzless others
and feasting can begin.


A drunk man stood on the roof.
He was again on the edge,
and he shouted at the city
of scared children and their children:

“My father told me this:

“Today you were a rebel, my son,
you didn’t back down,
you broke the rules
and they smacked you for it,
but you did the right thing,
you were true to yourself.

“Today you were a lover, my son,
you kissed the girl with the biggest heart,
you lifted her eyes with yours
from the floor in the room
where all the plastic flowers
already had someone to pluck them and dance.
You’ll remember her lollipop breath forever
and it’s worth every unkind word
you heard from all who
can’t tell a heart from a Valentine’s card.

“Today you were a poet, my son,
you wrote a poem
which I didn’t feel I should criticise
to remind you I’m the measure
of what poets should be doing.
It was of life and its bruising
and not for the theatre,
but better than that,
it was a poem that no man
who thinks of profession,
but only a poet could write.”

At the city, long and hard,
the drunk man looked
and felt it would’ve been better
if he’d not said this.

“What the world might have been,” he thought,
“had I a father who’d actually said those things.”

Though he couldn’t overcome self-loathing,
he drained the bottle,
emptying himself of doubt,
said sorry to the scared city,
and took a step.


The career girl,
who marches to the treadmill
to keep in shape for the combat
that is her corner-office contract.

The doctor,
who plays golf to swing and unwind
and hopes his wife thinks
marriage is this excess of absence.

His wife,
who cannot point fingers,
she told him early on
he should go all the way
and, besides, her fingers
are wrapped around a glass.

Her lover,
a gardener who would rather marry her,
but has to make do with her flower
and not the house.


Career girl,
will your PA hold your hand when
you finally ice over?
Tell yourself you never wanted love,
but you probably just thought
you’d be better with money,
which means you’re probably right.

You get up every day and say,
“Today I’m going to be a whore
and try to enjoy it,”
an old human thing.

The wife tells the doctor she loves him
and he pretends he’s done her no harm.

The gardener trims the hedges
and secretly cuts the heads off roses,

and the career girl has a desk-drawer change
of heart-embroidered underwear
which she sometimes uses
when she finds distraction from distraction
for a night.


Owen Gray believes in eating, drinking and being merry for tomorrow he’ll die for sure. His poetry is a form of therapy: cheap in one way, costly in another; and doesn’t really work as a form of therapy. 


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