Monday, June 20, 2011

John Grochalski - Five Poems


jack introduces himself to me again
we meet again and again
every time that i come in here
jack will interrupt a conversation
with some anecdote from his life
that has nothing to do with the topic at hand
then he’ll tell a story just as arbitrary
when he finishes he’ll look at me and ask
what’s your name?
and i’ll tell him, wishing that i could give him
a different name each time
but i’m known in here now
b.j. tells me that i’m a regular
i’ve been anointed and this is where i belong
today jack is talking about
herman hesse, siddhartha , the buddha
he tells us that jesus was a big fan of the buddha
only the bible won’t tell you that he is
i’m wondering what other kind of
inside information jack has on jesus christ
it keeps me from the realization
that these barflies are the only friends
that i’ve got in this world
but i’d rather b.j. and his whiskey and beer
jack with his pints of chardonnay and ice
than anything more intimate
because a man can still talk when he needs to
because in a few moments
ivan will start dancing to hot tuna
and bill the bartender
will drop his laptop on the floor because he’s drunk
jack will take a long pull on his chardonnay
and tell us that laptops are full of diodes
and diodes are what keep computers from getting viruses
b.j. will laugh and and down the last of his pint
diodes, he’ll say, yeah, jack, it’s gotta be the diodes
keeping all of those viruses away
and jack will feel smart
he’ll tell me that this time he’s going to remember my name
then jeopardy will come on the television
and no one will have to think about anything else
friends or names
because one of the categories will be major league baseball
and we’re all intimate with that topic in this joint.

Here is Where Nowhere Begins

caught up in the land where
old chinese women
clank recycled bottles all night
in the late autumn breeze

where they blare their television sets
through thin painted walls

and dumb bitches have
pointless conversations
underneath the streetlights
by our bedroom window

smoking and shouting into
their cell phones
like pampered little stars

here is where something ends

and we sit on the couch
dead from another eight hours
a shot of scotch in my tea
nothing in yours

taking in the malaise of the night

talking about getting out again

st. louis and denver

we think that maybe california
is where it’s at

but california is broke too

we say no
to new orleans and san francisco
because we don’t want to taint them
with the cruel regularities of life

we want to keep them crystal
in our minds

los angeles
san diego

even london, paris, and madrid

this is fun

a momentary escape from the lackluster
and excruciating now

but this is unsustainable fantasy
and we know it

because the clock is ticking toward
another day

and the chinese women
clank bottles and cans
out of vengeance and need

they echo in the night
until they hurt our bones

trucks idle for an eternity

conversations in the cold linger on
and get nowhere

the tea cups empty as they must

we look at each other
with worn-out eyes and thin smiles

and i think

here is where nowhere begins


Genius Sits

genius sits
in the bar
orders a pint of bud
figures out
how to try and kill the day
doesn’t think about the job
doesn’t think about
the other faces pulling on nothing
but sits there
thinking about an article
that he read
about cars becoming
the next smart phones
the ability to update
your facebook
order groceries
do anything from the dashboard
and wonders how
long it will be before
people start dying because of this
in grisly accidents
thinks that car companies
are the new vehicles for genocide
financed via government bailouts
looks around and wonders
how in the fuck the world
got like this
how he can get out
thinks about selling off
all of his shit
buying one of those
smart phone cars
driving it to slab city
all the way in the colorado desert
leaving it there to rot
before climbing salvation mountain
to camp out
underneath the stars
that don’t shine
here in the city
stars that don’t do anything
but twinkle
the uncomplicated past.

They Will Ask Me
--after the regional elections
in spain

they will ask me
if i brought them anything
back from spain

i will joke with them

i will tell them
that i brought them postcards
and magnets

t-shirts and shot glasses

only i left them
sitting in the souvenir stores

i will tell them
that i brought myself back from spain
and isn’t that good enough?

only that will be some kind of lie
because i don’t feel the same

i surely don’t think the same anymore

they will ask me
why europeans hate us

because they always ask this question

someone will ask me
what the tacos are like in spain
or if they had any cool
cinco de mayo stuff

so i won’t have to answer
the question about why europeans
don’t like americans

i will tell them that europeans
don’t understand americans

why there is no universal health care
here in the states
why the poor vote republican
and try to keep each other down

i will try to explain the terror
of franco that still exists

and the fear of over 20% unemployment

they will tell me
america love it or leave it

i will be inclined to accept the latter

only i’ll stay silent
as they turn away from me to talk
about some celebrity divorce
or the hot new reality show

i’ll think about walking grand via
in the spanish sun

or the protest kids
who were packed 28,000 strong
in the puerta del sol

fighting so hard not to become like us

failing beautifully

but at least they tried

and they will ask me where
i’m going to go next

i will tell them that i don’t know
i simply do not know.

Shitting My Pants in Finnegan’s Irish Pub (madrid)

oscar had been right about the spanish food
only maybe i’d had too much of it

pulpo ala gallega
and albondigas by the plateful

enough tortilla espanola to last a lifetime

all washed down with cold cerveza
or a nice rioja

foods whose names were as
fun to say as they were as good to eat

my wife and i
all over the streets of madrid, chanting


as if we weren’t just walking around shouting


or maybe it was the heat
that hot and dry spanish air

but by the time we made finnegan’s that night
i felt as if i were ready to die

running past the smile of the bartender
who had only last night told oscar that i had a kind face

and down those old wooden stairs to the bathroom
whose caballeros sign i’d ripped off the door two nights earlier

because i was a drunk american in madrid
and it seemed like the thing to do

into that little stall
with the door that didn’t shut
bracing it with my foot hoping no one
would try and come in

sweat pouring down my face
all over me

making a tight shirt feel tighter

caught in the spanish night, looking for release

just one fart i told myself

but it was one fart too many

a burst of shit came before
i had my drawers down

and then there i was
a grown man
a helpless mess in a strange country

shit, i said

not this

not tonight

i stood there bowlegged
foot against that door
music pouring down on me

my wife probably wondering where
in the hell i was

still, somehow i got the jeans off
the ruined drawers
that i had to toss in a corner of the small stall
while i tried to clean myself the best that i could

but that was when the pain came
and i dropped down on that bowl

like an anchor

grunting and moaning

no longer chanting


but instead wondering if maybe there was a god

and if he could see to it
to end my misery as he saw fit

maybe death or something else

the shits came like a river
hissing brown rapids of disgust

the stench was maddening

christ, i thought
first i vomit in the reina sofia and now this?

what else is there for me to do in this country?

the door to bathroom opened
a stranger came in and started coughing

i feel your pain, i said in english
but he did not answer me

he washed his hands and left

i took no offense to this
i was happy to be alone again
to finish doing this terrible deed

i looked over at my soiled underwear

if only i hadn’t farted, i said
as the pain began to subside
if only i’d stuck with american food

mcdonald’s or burger king

the american stomach is conditioned
to handle that kind of bland junk

ah, but the spanish food had called to me
as so many things had in this country

as picasso had
as goya had
as the long endless steps leading to toledo had

i rose from that bowl, wiped,
and surveyed the damage that i had done

still as proud as any man
after a typically good shit

life is funny like that

i pulled up my jeans
and grabbed my drawers
with whatever dignity i could muster

threw them away

washed my hands and took the long walk
back up the wooden steps
to where my wife was waiting for me

one of those sad looks on her face
typically reserved for children and dogs

two cold pints of carlsberg sitting on the table

she said it happens to the best of us
but i just waved her off

i sat down carefully
the unfamiliar sensation of
my balls scrapping off of the stiff denim

i had a good pull on my beer
looked at that portrait of samuel beckett by the door
and shook my head

as we sat there in silence
waiting for oscar to show.

John Grochalski's work has appeared in Carcinogenic Poetry as well as Avenue, Red Fez, Viral Cat, Lit Up, Rusty Truck, Thieves Jargon, Outsider Writers Collective, The Lilliput Review, The Camel Saloon, Yes Poetry, and the Orange Room Review. My short fiction has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fictionville, Bartleby Snopes, Retort, The Battered Suitcase, The Big Stupid Review, Pequin, The Legendary, Troubadour 21, The Moose & Pussy, and the anthology Living Room Handjob. His column The Lost Yinzer appears quarterly in The New Yinzer (, and he can be found at his blog Winedrunk Sidewalk ( John's book of poems The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out is out via Six Gallery Press, and his book Glass City is out on Low Ghost Press.

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