Three poems by John Grochalski

hungover and exhausted with all of this

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



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).


%d bloggers like this: