Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Short Bio: John Grochalski lives in Brooklyn, New York

if i had it my way

i would be in bed right now
in my torn boxer shorts
in that t-shirt that my wife gave me

the one with the sweat
and wine stains on it

i’d have the covers pulled up
just high enough
the torn brown sheet over the windows
stretched to keep out the light
the curtains drawn
sealed together with some of my wife’s hair clips

there’d be a bottle of wine
on the nightstand

it would be cheap red wine from france

my glass would be full

i’d have tom waits playing
he would be singing
i hope that i don’t fall in love with you
on the half-broken sony cd player.

one of the cats would be resting on my belly
the other would be at the end of the bed
resting between my feet

of course you’d be there too, dear

you’d have your glass of wine
resting on your stomach
waiting for me to refill it

outside there’d be no voices
no cars and no dogs

there’d be nothingness
sweet bliss and nothingness

the world would stay like that
the whole day
silent and black

while we drank glass after glass
of the cheap french red
and made our way through tom waits’ whole catalog

the world at large would go to hell
if i had it my way

but we know it’s never my way, baby

you’re at home right now
sick with a cold for two days

i’m on this morning bus again
reading the same bad novel that i started
reading yesterday

going to work

forever hustling to make a buck
for the electric company and the landlord
for the pleasure of all those other faces
that i’ve never even seen.

growing old with me

i call my mother

she’s the only person that i call

i call her once a week, mostly

she likes to hear my voice

in pittsburgh they got two feet snow, she tells me
she and my father just got done spending six hours shoveling

i tell her that i wish i lived near home
so that i could help them
so that they didn’t have to keep shoveling

my mother likes this

she’s been on me about moving home for years

we talk about my great aunt’s funeral
it was friday before the snow came

my mother read a eulogy
she said that everyone was crying

even your father, she says

my father is like me
it takes a lot to make him cry

i ask my mother how everyone was at the wake
she said they all were all holding up okay

how’s uncle phil? i ask

well, he was okay, my mom says
he looked tired and old

he and my great aunt had spent fifty-two years together
he just got so old going through this, my mom says.

fifty-two years will do that, i say

when we get off the phone i go into the living room
my wife is sitting there with a can of natural light
i can hear the neighbor’s television
through the walls

it is a loud, numbing sound

it is the kind of sound that wakes me up at three
in the morning
with heart palpations and a general fear of the world

i sit down with a beer
i tell my wife that i don’t know if i can
handle this bitch anymore

i think we better think about moving

this makes my wife angry
she tells me that if i’m so mad
maybe i should go and knock on the woman’s door
and tell her to turn her tv down

she says that we all make noise in this place
that she can hear me down the hall and around the bend
singing songs while i make dinner

i tell her that she’s full of shit

my wife drains her beer and tells me
that she’s not moving anywhere
that if i want to move i can go move by myself

i’ve heard this line before

she says that nearly everywhere we go
it’s me, not them

that line is new to me

so we sit there in the living room
the big game turned down low on our set
something loud and animated playing through our walls

i think about my great aunt’s funeral
the one they had before all of that snow came
i think about what my mother said about my great uncle

about how tired and old he’s gotten

then i look at my wife, pouring herself a glass of wine
from the bottle we have sitting on the floor
she looks angry and sullen
and once again i’ve caused it

we’ve been together for twelve years

she still looks young
but i wonder what they’ll be saying about her
when i’m laying there in the casket
about how tired and old she’s gotten
growing old with me
how a life with me has taken its toll on her

for the most part they’ll be right

but honey, i guess i just want to tell you
that i’m sorry right now for all of the
stress and shit that i put you through

just in case i forget

i want you to know that i’m sorry right now
instead of you thinking it
when i’m laying there, cold and gray,
done with everything
with everything finally quiet
and at peace.

just how i like it.

the last man

i look up
from a book
realizing that i’m
the last man left
on the bus
it feels good
for a second
like the apocalypse
like getting a wish granted
but i know this bliss
will not last
i wonder
what’s next?
what comes next?
unsatisfied so easily
suddenly thinking of
oscar wilde
who said:

in this world
there are only
two tragedies
one is not getting
what one wants
and the other is getting it.

and ain’t that the fucking truth?


henry worked in the wine store warehouse
before i got a job there

he had to leave because he got drunk one night
and got hit by a car staggering across a main drag in buffalo

the accident put him in a coma
broke a bunch of bones and such

when he got out he was confined to a wheelchair
henry’s brain didn’t work the way it had before
all of the guys at work talked about him like he was dead

when his family wheeled him in for a visit
henry would shake hands with everyone and sit
in his wheelchair while the guys crowded around him

they’d talk to him about the old days
but he couldn’t say much back

he’d nod and look around the store wide-eyed

henry’s smile was crooked too

when he left everyone would scatter
but throughout the day you’d hear stories about the guy
how he liked to drink beer and scotch and listen to rock and roll

henry liked the alt-country stuff like ryan adams
and the drive-by truckers

the guys said he was surly but had a pretty sharp wit about him

his girlfriend worked wine sales
she had about a dozen years on him
and before the accident henry was fucking bar whores
up and down delaware avenue

she had no clue that he was doing it

they told me that i would’ve liked him
they said he and i had a lot in common

i reminded them of henry a little bit
i was surly and i had a sharp wit about me too
i liked ryan adams and beer and scotch

the last time henry came in, the guys introduced me to him
his handshake was light and he had slobber on his shirt

i felt like i was at a wake

after a while i couldn’t stand the sight
of henry and his wheelchair
of the guys fawning over him
of his cuckold girlfriend wiping his mouth
as his parents stood there with stiff smiles

i went back and did my job
which i hated every second of

soon the guys were all back in the warehouse
they were laughing and telling stories about henry

the time henry drank a six-pack in under five minutes

the fat, black chick henry fucked at fletchers bar

the time he drove his car into a wall

all the good old stories about henry

they talked about him for about an hour
as i hauled cases of wine and kept to myself

then someone mentioned the sabres game from the other night
and everyone in the warehouse
started talking about something else.

sunday morning at 130 bay ridge parkway

sitting in the quiet
as the coffee brews

i hear the ancient chinese bitch next door
banging pots and slamming doors

talking stiff staccato
to her grandchild

the one who sounds
like a pack of elephants
when she runs

soon it’ll be the television
through my walls
for the rest of the day

but sitting here right now

8:20 on a sunday morning

130 bay ridge parkway

it is mostly silent and still

somewhat serene

at the beginning
of another long-ass day
in america

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