Three poems by John Grochalski

hungover and exhausted with all of this

i put down the cell phone and listen as kids play chess

 

sitting

in this barely air-conditioned room

full of children i’m duty-bound to protect

 

i play on my cell phone

like every other dullard

 

and try not to envision the big picture

try not to examine the life

 

but it’s hard

 

back in pittsburgh last weekend

my old man told me

that i needed to start getting my prostate checked

 

prepare for the big colon exam at fifty

 

as if fifty

was just another benchmark

in this endgame played by one

 

and not some train

careening off the rails

and coming straight for me

 

it’s too much this aging

 

counting down

seconds, minutes, hours and days

 

encapsulating decades within the minutiae

of casual conversation between old friends

 

existence itself can drive you mad

when you try and search for lost time

 

hungover and exhausted with all of this

i put down the cell phone and listen as kids play chess

 

and giggle

and laugh with youthful abandon

and run around the room

touching things that i should be telling them

to leave well enough alone

 

for a moment i hate them all

 

sit envious

with how their child-hours seem to loiter

 

as if their little long lives

won’t suddenly catch on fire like mine

 

and this march of time

won’t ever happen to them

 

 

for the lady i met in the laundry room

 

let us speak

less of our fate

and more to the fact

that the laundry must be done

 

we are both slaves

to societal norms and clean underwear

 

but does that mean we need to discuss the weather?

 

or the old building superintendent

who let the cockroaches

roam as free and wild as buffalo

in old western stories?

 

six years after the fact

talk about beating your proverbial dead horse!

 

the way his ears must ring to this day!

 

and don’t you know your ancient grudge

does nothing for your eyes under these dim laundry lights?

 

besides, i could tell you tall tales

about the new superintendent

 

we could sing psalms beneath

the corroded water-damaged plaster of my bedroom ceiling

 

be watered tortured

with the way my shower drips

 

have our very confidence in humanity

shook to its core

with the way his, screaming monster child

runs past my window

caught in the thralls of liquid bubbles

and street chalk

 

or how his wife stares voodoo daggers into me

whenever i offer up a small complaint

 

let us instead

turn this moment of drudgery and chore

into silence

 

human beings are akin to angels

when they are silent and otherwise involved

 

let’s leave the conversation to the gnats

that have begun to congregate in this building anew

 

so that when we finish

we can part ways the best of strangers

 

and i can go back to my apartment

of sound mind

 

and not have to tell my poor wife

 

that the crazy bitch in 2C

is at it again.

 

 

alone, i pour another double vodka

 

and let marvin gaye

permeate the living room

 

to drown out the upstairs neighbor

 

whose fat feet thunder across the floor

like he’s unfurling the wrath of zeus

 

tonight it sounds

as if he’s rolling bowling balls across his floor

then running across the wood

 

to roll them back

 

and i really shouldn’t

be drinking double vodkas this way

at my age

 

it disrupts the sleep

and my brain is dodgy these days

 

but we do as we must to get by

 

and, besides, if i stopped now

it would be a lifetime of false, sober smiles

 

given to bowling ball people

living bowling ball lives

 

rolling and rolling all over me

 

trapping me in an oubliette of pleasantries

with no rusty blade in my hand

 

to cut the occasional vein

and let it all bleed.


John Grochalski has had poetry appear in several online and print publications including:  Red Fez, Rusty Truck, Outsider Writers Collective, Underground Voices, The Lilliput ReviewThe Main Street Rag, Zygote In My Coffee, The Camel Saloon, and Bartleby Snopes.  He is the author four books of poetry The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch (Six Gallery Press, 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Press, 2014), and The Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha Press, 2018).  He has also authored the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press, 2013) and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press, 2016).

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