Thursday, January 21, 2016

John Grochalski- Three Poems

Bio: John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the section that doesn’t have the bike sharing program.

i was thinking about nashville
                        --for dan fante

i was thinking about nashville back in 2007
when i was looking for a word or two of wisdom in your emails
something that told me how to survive it
a little tip from the years of hard boozing and bad jobs
some tidbit from those novels and poems
that i sucked up like cheap wine
and you wrote atta boy, atta boy keep going
like blind faith would save and anoint us all
i was suffering in nashville in the grand opulent library
almost nine hundred miles from new york
traveling coast to coast on unsubsidized student loans
and the embers of a savings account
no job prospects no home a future on hold
over a decade out of college and my own sketchy resume
that made me look like a career drifter
but all you could ask me was if i had an editor
and, if so, could i give you his email
i was dying in the library trying to find a cheap hotel in memphis
writing shitty haikus next to budgetary woes
in notebooks that weren’t bound for glory
thinking about the honky tonks on broadway
full of blonde southern women shaking their asses
at men who weren’t concerned with poetic immortality
as i sucked down pabst blue ribbon at layla’s bluegrass inn
feeling less like a gin-pissing-raw-meat-dual-
carburetor-v8-son-of-a-bitch from pittsburgh
and more like a complete failure
with thousands of miles left to go
thinking that if you were still hustling for the word
how in the hell was i going to make it in the writing game?
i was thinking about nashville last night
half drunk on vodka when i heard about you being gone
another shooting star  another outlaw
no longer spitting raw juice on this scorched earth
guts and blood and brain turned into dust
i was thinking about nashville
how bright light builds only to fade away
oh, dan, i think that i was thinking about you.     

my old man burned a cigarette to its nub

as i walked around the living room
locking windows and doors
turning down the blaring tv that echoed
in the small duplex we lived in
the tv that always kept me awake
twelve years old and fears of insomnia
of hypochondria of that old catholic
if i should die before i wake
of kids at school calling me fat of girls
laughing at me or burglars prowling
my neighborhood fears of any creaking
thumping rumbling vibrating noise of
my mother working the late shift
in summers of news exposés that
told you what happened to women
in parking lots working the late shift
fears of cheap third-rate horror cinema
that played on pay cable that i watched
because i couldn’t fall asleep because
of those unlocked windows and doors
and that blaring television set
in that duplex where my old man
burned a cigarette to its nub
as he snored and snored and snored
on the living room couch with all the lights on
his faces as precious as a newborns
wrapped in the arms of a peaceful sleep
that always alluded me on nights like that.

the dealer

11 p.m.
i sit in the bar
of del’s restaurant
half-drunken third wheel
between calvin and this 17 year old girl
beer faced and vodka eyed
he wants her
i want her
but most likely
neither of us are gonna get her
saturday night feels forever
even in the empty belly of the new year
behind cold fogged bar glass
with an underage blonde
then she comes out of the kitchen
with an empty drink tray
with her red hair and lip ring
the memory of her back tattoo
that she showed me back in the march rain
i wonder how long it’s been
at least since may
when i never showed up
at the bar she was working
portia and her boyfriend
portia leaving pittsburgh the next day
and i knew i had no shot
but there she is in a black and white del’s uniform
apron around her waist
giving the bartender drink orders
she sees me and smiles
she melts me
like she did those college months back
like a pale april sun
through a summer of women
an autumn of lonely heartbreak
of holy saturday nights
of bars i picked myself off the floor from
i never stopped wondering about her
about portia
hey you, she says
like hey you means forever between us
forever or something new
she calls me over
i come like a dog
she winks
she says, i was wondering what happened to you
i wonder when
i want to ask
about the boyfriend
about being back in pittsburgh
porita beats me to the punch
starts scrawling words and numbers
on her order pad
has me bend so she can write on my back
breath on my neck
portia tears off a sheet
hands it to me
immaculate holy phone number
i want to hold up
to the light like a treasure
my new year’s resolution
she says
we’re dealing on the side now
so…you know
winks and leaves with a tray full of beer
i look at the paper
1/8 costs this
1/4 costs that
can’t even read the last two numbers
of her digits
but at least i’ve answered the boyfriend question
i stumble back to the bar
playing paper football and laughing
she looks at me sadly and says
all blonde-faced, all blue-eyed angel illegal
you look
like you’ve seen
a ghost.

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