Saturday, March 16, 2013

Five Poems By John Grochalski

Five poems by John Grochalski

tough guys drink beer
on the evening bus

and they smirk at you
like there isn’t a goddamned thing
that you can do about it

as if you care

tough guys drink aluminum pounders
of coors light on the evening bus
and we’re supposed to shiver

coors light isn’t tough

even with some has been rapper
schilling for them

but this clown is smirking and shaking his head
looking at all of us
daring one of us to say something to him

he calls his boy, tony, on his cell phone
just to let tony know that he’s drinking beer on the evening bus

like some kind of gangster

i hope tony is impressed
but i don’t think he is

i think tony wants to talk about his woman troubles

because the tough guy drinking beer on the evening bus
almost spits out his coors light

he says, stop whining about your bitch, tone
be a player, he says,

taking down another gulp of the “hard stuff”
as some black girl smacks me in the face with her ponytail
and starts singing beyoncé songs

ponytails are tougher than coors light
being forced to listen to beyoncé songs can make you tough

tougher than this clown drinking beer
on the evening bus

maybe he is kind of hardcore

he put his can of beer on the floor of the bus
when he finished it

he’s too hard to recycle
or even throw his can away

he’s going to make the bus driver his bitch

he tells tony this on the phone
as he reaches into his bag for another pounder can of coors light

as the black girl bellows
say my name, say my name and looks over at him

telling the tough guy
that this bus ain’t no mu’fuckin’ bar, white boy

giving him just what he wanted

he tells her to shut up, bitch
because he so fucking dangerous

but she doesn’t hear him through her headphones

just goes on singing
say my name, say my name

as the tough guy continues drinking beer
on the evening bus

telling poor tony what a pussy he is
for being hung up on a girl

and that tonight he plans on breaking a bottle
over some poor fuckers head

at whatever bar
they choose to go to.

juice bar

my wife and i
stand in line at a juice bar

we’ve decided not to drink on sundays
because we’re getting older

because sundays have always been
an alcohol free-for-all

arguments and sloppy sex
movies neither of us remember
and books we’ll have to reread the next day

this is sober sunday

so we’re in a juice bar line
with dozens of others

thin people who never wake up on monday morning
hot with sunday hangovers
really feeling the actuality of their death

and the juice bar is decked out in green and orange
and other earthy colors

there are pictures of hearts all over the place
to remind you that you are doing something
good for the body

i imagine regular bars decked out in bleak colors

blacks and grays and whites
and pictures of saturated livers hanging about

but this just makes me wish that  i was in a bar
instead of in a juice bar line

with dozens of young people texting
or bobbing their heads to the loud and terrible
disney pop playing overhead

covers of covers of old songs

with other aging assholes fooling themselves
on a sunday afternoon

and the juice bar workers are overly friendly
when someone walks in the door

one of the workers shouts, welcome to jammin’ juice
then it is like a chain, an echo of workers
whether busy or not


welcome to jammn’
welcome to jammin’
welcome to jammin’

the whole thing reeks of artifice
a corporate ideal of hospitality

complete with a shot of wheatgrass
to help keep you on this planet longer than you’d like to be

it’s like being in a foreign country actually

and each time you place an order
the juice bar worker takes your name
instead of giving you a number

you do not get a paper receipt
because we’re all saving the world in this juice bar

it’s not the workers fault that it is this way
they need to make a buck

chances are good most of these people
would be getting drunk with their sunday

or standing in a juice bar line somewhere else

when your healthy drink comes up
your smoothie
or your juice mixed with crushed ice

one of the juice bar workers shouts your name
like they’ve known you forever

and the young stop texting for a moment
to go up to the counter for their sixty-ounce blast

of pomegranate paradise
or peach passion
or strawberry swirl

sucking it half way down before they even leave the juice bar
while the rest of us stand there

listening to the disney music
the whirl of blenders

the door opening to a folksy bell
and another chorus of

welcome to jammin’
welcome to jammin’
welcome to jammin’

the blood pressure rising
a sense of propriety shot to shit
when each new drink that arrives is not our order

my wife and i
standing in this juice bar line
on a sober sunday afternoon

still somewhat convinced we’re doing something good
something healthy

instead of shoving down all of that poison
in the quiet of our own home

or sitting in a dead bar
with a cold beer

watching the warm sun shower the good earth
from behind smeared glass

just like the good lord
originally intended.

man outside the funeral home

the man
outside the funeral home

is slouched against graffiti
and bird-shit walls

trying to light a cigarette with shaking hands

and bending at the knees

he is
inundated with family
and friends
and cups of water to calm his nerves

keeps shaking his head


while us gawkers on the street
are thankful

that his misery is not ours
for the moment

decide amongst our ignorant selves
to stop whining about

and bills
and itchy assholes

our imperfect love

shut our mouths
drink our paper coffee

move on


i know

somehow i know
that one day this will all be gone

and i’ll be worm food for sure

or a can of ashes
sprinkled over some european bridge

a good run at its end

but for now
i’ll concentrate on being alive

my hands on her ass
as she rides me on the couch


books and clothing in piles
on the floor

wine on the coffee table
moving like the sea

her screams of pleasure
echoing off the walls

my eyes
rolling back into my head

like foaming
white waves.

parallel parking

i can see her

i wish i had a sign that read
no talking to me during my walk to work

a sign like that would save me
so many of these moments

but i can see her waving me down

and tchaikovsky’s 6th is ending in on my
magical music machine

it’s fading into a dissonance
that was taking me with it until this

but she’s waving me down

running across a busy street
flailing her arms as if she were on fire

what? i say when she reaches me
corners me really

and i don’t turn the tchaikovsky down
until i get that last recognizable note

can you drive? she says
in a thick russian accent

she points over to a car that is half out into the street
motor running and some terrible music infesting the block

i don’t have a license
which is a lie

i simply won’t help people who can’t help themselves

but you can still drive? she says
which means she’s willing to break the law to get what she wants

no, i tell her, moving on

having lost tchaikovsky because of this business
but gaining dvorak to compensate

can anyone drive?  i hear her shouting


anyone please?

then i turn the music up to drown her out

i’m sure she’ll find someone, i tell myself,
some good citizen to come and parallel park her car

but in a proper world
two teenagers would be joyriding brooklyn in that rumbling thing

while she gives a stolen property statement
to a couple of cops

two jolly flatfoots
laughing so goddamned hard

that they can barely write a sentence
in that little black pad of theirs.

John Grochalski is a published writer whose poetry and prose have appeared in several online and print publications including:  Red Fez, Rusty Truck, Outsider Writers Collective, Underground Voices, The Lilliput Review, The Main Street Rag, Zygote In My Coffee, The Camel Saloon, and Bartleby Snopes.  I have two books of poetry The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch (Six Gallery Press) and Glass City (Low Ghost Press), and a novel, The Librarian forthcoming. My chapbook In the Year of Everything Dying can be viewed via Camel Saloon’s Books on Blogs series (

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