John Grey

All For a Song

The radio was playing something country.
Hank Williams, George Jones, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson –
the reception was too crackly to hear.
But the cabbie knew it well enough.
Good-old-boy music was the very core of his being.
At least, he sang along like we were in Nashville
not negotiating a Providence rainstorm.

Of course, I have my own misplaced soundtrack.
It rides those bumpy South Queensland backroads,
drawls its maudlin heartbreak tune from cheap car radios.
No ten-gallon hats. No glittery rhinestones.
Not a honky-tonk woman in sight.
My song comes with its own hard-luck stories.
Plus a few sheep. Some cattle. Drought of course.
Anything the landscape can do to squash a dream.
But there’s no denying that abject misery can be hummable.

It’s been long years in America but I’m still Australian,
rendered low from time to time by homesickness,
even with everybody dead or gone every-which-way,
and dairy-farm-land diced up for development, gated communities,
small towns now cemeteries, bush bulldozed, streams drained,
skies made ordinary, once grassy ground ruled by cement.
But sometimes a song is the remedy for being elsewhere.

In chords, in notes, old times reassert themselves,
family not seen years, friends I’ve lost contact with –
Would I know them? Would they know me?
Does anybody but me remember that cabby?
“The Dying Stockman” and “The Old Bullock Dray” say “Yes.”


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Muse, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming
in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Hawaii Review and the Dunes


2 thoughts on “John Grey”

  1. This reminded me powerfully of home. Like you, I’m an Australian who’s lived long years outwith Australia. I seem finally to have settled in Scotland. But grew up on the north-east NSW coast (now a bit infested with gated communities or at least big properties where there used to be wee villages, tho some of those still exist), then university in Sydney. I don’t think you ever forget it (i’ve been 53 years away). My poetry often returns to themes from home, each (infrequent) visit to Australia prompting more. Thank you for this, John.


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