John Grey

Photo Credit: byronv2/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

In summer and fall,
he hounds the festivals,
guitar strapped to his back,
as ancient as the Appalachians
and the streets of London
at the time of the plague.

He’s not invited exactly,
but he’s been doing this for years,
his features leathered
by many days outdoors,
his long gray hair tethered in a ponytail.

Folks know his face
even if they don’t know his name,
and his cracked voice warbling
“Silver Dagger” or “All My Trials”
is as familiar as a blanket on the grass.
The organizers don’t pay him.
He scrapes together
the coins, the notes,
passersby toss in his battered hat.

Sometimes, come winter
he hocks his guitar
for a few bucks
to pay his sister
while he sleeps in a heap
on her parlor floor.

She hasn’t the heart
to toss him out in the cold.
Besides, come Christmas,
with all the family gathered,
he sings, a cappella,
“The First Noel.”
He sings all six verses
when one is more than enough.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly. Email: jgrey5790[at]gmail.com

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