VII: Poetry by John Grey & Photography by Jessica Schroer-Smalley, 2

The Use of Grief

There were no names on the tombstones,
only numbers.
No dates either.
But something was surely interred below.

A local historian said it was
an old prisoner’s graveyard.
If no one claimed the bodies,
the state buried them cheap.

No one tended to that cemetery.
They were prisoners of anonymity.
Their warden was a rotting oak,
their guards, the weeds,
the unseen but busy worms.

We came back later,
placed flowers by the crumbling stones
of strangers.
They could have been thieves.
They could have been murderers.
But forget the postulations.
We mourned
only for the certainties.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions, and the war poetry anthology, No Achilles (Waterwood Press, 2015), with work upcoming in  Big Muddy Review, Coal City Review, Gargoyle, and Nebo.

Jessica Schroer-Smalley is a photographer from Shelton, CT. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including 11 seconds before the rain, The Adroit Journal, and Vogue. To learn more about Jessica’s photography and also view more of her diverse portfolio, please visit her site, it’s a small world, at


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