Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Three Poems by John Grocholaki


i was
made for concrete

but my parents shipwrecked me in the suburbs

it was preferable
to be p before dawn
hustling the morning newspaper to make a buck

getting chased by rabid, orphaned dogs
and drunks swerving home out of shame and guilt

or it was preferable to be broke
hiding my head under pillows
as the mowers revved in anticipation

rather than touch a single blade to grass
for any kind of allowance

my old man
always tried to get me to mow the lawn

like it was something i should want to do
a right of passage that would serve me well

i did it once and then never again

but my old man
he cut the grass nearly ever saturday
when the weather would let him

he cut the grass on saturdays
because god was a selfish prick and he stole sunday
from working people too

the old man cracked a beer before noon
and joined the cacophony of exhausted patriots

avoiding their wives and kids
pushing their weekend morning away

over those little patches of golden green in god's good earth

getting callouses from lawn mowers brought on credit
that worked right 60% of the time
when they worked at all

rumbling half-assed machines with john wayne names

that were made in america
but burned middle eastern gas

out into reagan's ozone layer of american hypocrisy

all for what?
the satisfaction of doing it again the next week?

another self-deluded cog
dying of smoke inhalation in the burning city on a hill

i didn't realize it then
but the suburban lawn made me
a city dweller and an apartment dweller
before i ever realized it

the suburban lawn was a noose one had to escape
like most creatures of comfort in america

honestly i had no choice but to save myself

and to this day i prefer the scent of newsprint
and piping hot tar
over that of freshly cut grass

the sound of my feet slapping pavement
as i sail from one endless block of neon to the next
past the car horns and car exhause

dodging dog shit
while thinking up some monumental urban triviality

hell, to be honest
i don't even like to walk through parks

frank o'hara never did this

i settle
on the dried-out turkey burger
and tepid bottled water
in the basement of the job
on a hot wednesday afternoon

february is dying
the climate is dying
something is always dying
either a beloved pet
or democracy
or love

the burger is worse than i thought
parched to the point of no returnb
the cheddar cheese on it melted and cold
it looks like mucus

and i can't understand giovanni papini to save my life

all i know is that he started out looking for genius
but became fascinated instead

in a perfect world he'd celebrate the fourth of july

on the phone a moment ago
a perky lady at the bank told me
that i'd been approved for a credit card
with a seventeen-thousand-dollar credit line

she said it as if it were a good thing, i think

in the end i push the burger away
and put down the book of papini
i try for a salad whose vegetables
are so warm and wilted that i can't eat them either

so i push it away too
and sit back staring at a small american flag
with a hatred so vibrant and edible
that its power of suggestion
could bring about
a new
black death.

the last man without a smart phone

the flip phone is dying
but the winter won't end

my wife and i stand outside the apple store
watching the sculpted philistines
hunger to get inside

to drop god-knows-what
on another chinese slave-labor suicide
that will fulfill them for about an hour
before the void starts creeping back in

for right now
i am the last man without a smart phone

i don't pay for minutes or data
or the precious air that i breathe

i have to remember things like usernames and passwords

i can't look up the meaning of life on a whim
or photograph my lunch or a pretty tree
or some cute dog rolling around on the pavement

i don't know what celebrities are thinking at every moment of the day

i'm a walking, talking, living, breathing relic
and i like that about myself

but the flip phone is dying
it's dropping calls and not taking messages
from our families and my wife's doctors

it's a piece of ten-year-old tech
that wants the dignity to die

even the ringer sounds like it's on its last legs

so here we are outside the apple store
big glass windows and doors

showcasing all of their little metal gadgets

a whole genocide of gleaming devices
being molested by scarf people right out of j. crew catalogs

and i feel it creeping up inside of me
the void or something else slipping away

the desire to turn tail and run

i think if i go inside this place
soon i'll be like the rest of them

taking pictures of tacos
and scrolling through hundreds of selfies to find the right one

steaming shitty pop music
and retweeting actors tweeting about their bad movies
or dumb jocks musing about the big game

texting nonsense
and talking data plans with the tax man

a smart phone shoved so far up my ass
i'll have to look up my own goddamned name

in order to remember
who in the fuck it is
that i thought i once was.

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 forthcoming The Philosophers' Ship (WineDrunk Press, 2018).  He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press, 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press, 2016).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where the garbage can smell like roses if you wish on it hard enough.

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