Sunday, September 27, 2015

Three Poems by John Grochalski

last saturday night on northway drive

a christmas bulb
stack of cds given a week ago
on her twenty-first birthday
the night she thought we'd now be going
to all of those bars and clubs together
my poetry manuscripts and my sweater
the jean shorts that i thought were lost
a couple of books that i had lying around her bedroom
a big black garbage bag
for me to put it all in
while she sits there and cries
or runs upstairs to blast madonna's "take a bow" again and again
oh, what her neighbors must be thinking
this saturday night
along their peaceful little cul de sac american dream
the last sturday night i'll have to do on northway drive
i keep checking my watch
wonder when this'll be done
one year and nine months of this war
she says, do you have somewhere else to be?
and i think of the club last night
watching the blonde dance in red lights
drinking sea breeze after sea breeze
i can taste the grapefruit on my lips if i really try
but this lost saturday night
this goddamned madonna song that she keeps playing
what is she trying to prove?
what is she trying to save except her own loneliness
i hold up the christmas bul
hold up the stack of cds
say, these were gifts
she says, i thought maybe you would've called this week
for what reason, i think
i tell her that i'm not her jesus christ
and we sit there for almost an hour in silence or shout
putting each other through a last torture
before she gets up and flings open her door
the cold night infectious
like a sad-sack santa i walk from her driveway to my car
muffled madonna echoing the landscape
sit inside my ride and watch her houselights dim
smoking a cigarette, 2pac on low
i know more than ever
how good this small freedom feels.

goodbye to all of that

is eight or nine
swerves the car
says nine for sure beers
up on the night
when he comes and gets me at work
calvin and steve
like frozen children in the back of his car
oakland smears before us
seas of red seas of college kids
eight or nine beers up as well
colby races for the parkway traffic
swerving lanes
panicking people just trying to have their night
i ask the backseat if they knew he was like this
two shaking heads
clatter of full forty ounce bottles on the backseat floor
i think if only i were a praying man
inside this pete's wildlife club
colby bolts from us
leaves a trail of pinched women's asses in his wake
it looks like they're doing a new dance
arched back then slap down
bolby moses colby moses parting the flesh sea
we go after him
he lifts bartender tip money off the bar
takes waitress tip money from the tables
takes a drink when the drinker's head is turned
gravs a brunette in a corner
shadow dancing wallflower
she shouts at me, is this thing your friend?
as she i wrestle to get her arm free
liberated she slaps colby so hard
so hard in a loud club heads still turn
but he just giggles grams again lets her go gone
heading for the door
we scream to the bouncers
she screams for the bouncers
but they're lost in packs of women gyrating
muscle headed guardians of the debauched pittsburgh night
who think i did the damage
two slam me into a wall head dazed perp-style
the brunette shouts
not him!
not him you idiots!
i break free
stumble into the parking lot
colby trying to open someone else's car with his keys
what are you doing man?
i mean why this holy mess?
he vomits all over their door
slouched to the ground
we huddle around him frost breath in this lost night
he looks up grins
eight or nine for sure beers expelled
rising like a prize fighter ready for one last round
remember remember
colby leaves us all
for maryland
for good.

the college failure

i think marilyn is making eyes at me
i think all women adore me
two months of this torture
i gear myself pump myself tell myself
kid, this is the day
lunch or anything to push me past dumb stares
marilyn and her post-class routine
the pitt news and lunch at roy rogers
bottom floor of the cathedral of learning
i'd make my last bold custer move
flying down cathedral stairs
i get smacked in the head with a paper roll
kris in bearded flannel saint mode
we tumble steps talking our british tongue beatle talk
marilyn back in her gray navy clutching books
she always dresses so goddamned nice
whisper to kris secret words about her
my grand plan my last front in this war
and then i'm a done gone thomas merton monk saint
no more women no more heartache
we stand in roy rogers
examine the menu like a fine work of art
our own brown-bagged lunches waiting
poor kris who's been through them all with me
now marilyn with her tray of junk food
christ, look at all of the ketchup, he says
but i'm sweating mad sick of the smell
of this food this notebook this pen in my hand
useless poem notebook full of blank pages
i make my bow-legged jingle-jangle way across
the weight of gravity this moment of truth
. . . . . . . . . and like that magic is gone
the wind knocked
marilyn sits her dainty sit with some beast of a co-ed girl
a lion's mane of hair loudest person in the place
yang to her yin to her yang
i turn to kris
oh, I'm not making a fool of myself in front of that
so we
back in the hallway
kris checking the glass doors of roy's every minute
to see if the beast leaves our heroine alone for just a second
while i whine and pace and curse the gods
that things never go right
this women business never works the way it should
and soon marilyn and the beast
come rolling past us in girl laughs and giggles
down the hall and fade to black
the chance gone
what would you have said anyway, kid?
dumbsainted kris and i stumble toward gray light
our stomachs growling for food
the dim promise of something else.

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