Wednesday, October 3, 2012

John Grochalski- Three Poems


marty comes walking back into the office
like he’s king of the world

he retired last month
talks about how great it’s going

but he’s already back for a visit
so how great can it really be?

they swarm him like he’s a rock star
everybody wanting a taste of the good life
which marty is happy to give to them

talking about his plans for a vacation to dublin
the jazz festival he played a week ago

he shows everyone the concert t-shirt
with his name on the back

says i finally found some fame at sixty-four

they fawn over him like he’s a greek god
even though not three months ago they were
stalking around the building
talking about how lazy marty is

wondering when he’s going to retire
and get out of their hair for good

absence makes the heart grow fonder, i’m told
from a jack to a king and other clichés

they laugh and joke with marty
love him now because they don’t have to see him every day

i stay away from the man

i didn’t like him then
and i’m not going to pretend to like him now

he sent some of my poems to human resources
trying to get me fired

accused me of being an anti-semite because i’m polish
and my head is shaved

so why pretend to be best buddies
because it’s the common thing to do

from my point of view
marty wasted twenty-seven years of his life in this place
with nothing to show for it
but one divorce and a row of yellow teeth

he looks like a wasted old prune whose life is on the clock

i envy him nothing
but the time he’ll have now

only because i know he’ll squander it on stupid shit
when i could turn it into magic

he’ll keep coming back to this place on a weekly basis
shooting his breeze
telling everyone how good he has it

and they’ll listen less and less
complain about how good old marty is always showing up
right at lunchtime

check their watches
and hope that he’s found something better to do
this thursday afternoon

than come waltzing into this place

the scene at cookie’s clubhouse

we were both tired of being white

tired of punk rock
tattooed white idiots screaming into microphones

tired of summer nights in pittsburgh

we wandered down penn avenue
down to the black bar

because the music emanating from the place
was something that we both loved

and inside it was packed with bodies
jostling to music or just standing around

there were no white faces in the joint
just purple neon and joy

and this pleased us
so we went inside with our petty little fears

only it wasn’t like the movies

the music didn’t screech to a halt
no one turned our way
there were no rows of angry, suspecting faces
mad at us for killing their buzz, their good time
as we made our way toward the bar

just people singing along to d’angelo
and then tony toni tone

not an ounce of flaccid punk rock bravado in the joint
tattooed jackoffs screaming into microphones

no import beer
just budweiser in cold cans
which we drank at the bar
as nervous as two white boys in a black bar could be

but there was really nothing to be nervous about

just music and dancing
and conversation about another wasted pirates season
talk of the end of summer
talk of football

and we stood there decidedly white
decidedly not punk

when these two girls and a guy took pity on us
had us play darts with them

as tony toni tone morphed into blackstreet
morphed into johnny gill

and we looked at each other with wide eyes
because some bar was finally playing all of the music
that we listened to
in our white heads on black nights in the city

and the guy kept calling me ace ventura

his girlfriend said that he thought that i looked like jim carrey

maybe i did

jim carrey was a fine thing to be on a summer night
playing darts and drinking beer in cookie’s clubhouse

jim carrey probably got a lot of pussy
without the perils of color and punk rock

and i remembered you turned to me and smiled
whispered how much you’d like to date the other girl

if only

if only what? i said back

forgetting what city we were in
what time and place

which is forever that time and place
in america.


my wife and i
watch a bad movie about shakespeare

we give it a half hour
before we shut it off

my wife is a fan of shakespeare
but i could give or take him

the movie we were watching
theorized that big willy never wrote his plays

that they were instead
written by the earl of oxford

that shakespeare never wrote his plays
is an old argument that scholars
and action film directors will keep having

until absolutely no one cares

what struck me was how this earl of oxford
could get away with it

at least in the bits that i saw, he did

how great it must’ve been to have lived
in total creative anonymity back then
without the internet to expose and scandalize

the people i work with looked me up
before i even started my job

they had me pegged and boxed
without my having said one word

and they’d been reading my poems for a year
before i found out

they still read my poems
only with not as much gusto as before

especially when people show up in the verse
who may or may not be them
then they get pissed at me and create drama
try and send my shit to human resources

i guess i miss being anonymous on the job
even on this small and petty scale

not having to dissect each bit of writing
so as not to offend

i miss coming in and being nothing but a worker for the day
going home and doing my writing
having no one be the wiser

even if it was only just an illusion to begin with

i suppose i could use a pseudonym
or stop writing about the job

but what would be the point now?

would if i could
i’d want to be like the earl of oxford

sit in my regal little box at the globe
and let some fucking actor take all of the credit
for my work

while i and i alone

knew who was really
getting the words down.

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