Poetry / Poets / Writers / Writing

Poems by John Grochalski

play money

the little girl
sitting opposite me on the bus
is playing retail store with a real five dollar bill
that her mother gave her
so that the child won’t be bored
while mommy texts and plays games
on her cell phone

the little girl is cute, i guess
the way she pretends to pay for things
from the old bat sitting next to me
before snatching the money back from air
to do it over and over again

it proves that if nothing else
this kid has some semblance of an imagination
which is more than can be said for her mother

she’s so cute
the old bat sitting next to me keeps saying
snatching at the money and cackling
but the old bat looks whacked
keeps singing church hymns
and she’s carrying a garbage bag full of brown rags
so i don’t know what to think

i don’t think i’d let my kid play with her

maybe i’d like to have that five dollar bill to play with
or i think i’d like to do something untoward
like snatch that five dollar bill from that little cutie’s hand
right when the bus stops
and then hop off and book it until i’m out of sight

that would be something
maybe that would show the little girl
that money isn’t the thing to be played with

or maybe that would show her mother
to pay more attention to her kid
instead of pounding away inanities on the internet

or maybe my thievery would even show
the old bat how fleeting beauty really is
how anyone can take something lovely
and turn it ugly in a matter of seconds

but i think i’ll keep this moment somewhere
in the back of my head

i’ll use it on payday
when i have my own play money to mess around with

a few tens and twenties
that i’ll take to the bar or liquor store

and maybe i’ll pull a couple bills back from the bartender
when he hands me my pint
or snatch my twenty back after the liquor store man
hands me my bag of whiskey and wine

life like an impish little child

see if they get the innocent humor
in all of this.


my heart
is like a sewer

but i’m trying to read
karl ove knausgaard anyway

there’s this scraping noise
coming from his iphone

it sounds like a three-car pile up
at rush hour

a ceaseless ripping and tearing of metal

i put the book down
fuck it

and start thinking about the finer points
of committing murder
when the noise suddenly stops

he looks at me
confusing my glower
for a general curiosity

and says
that was a shark eating a metal tank

before going back to his phone

where it’s cute cat videos and laughter
until we’re at the end of the train line.

black and white and read all over

i didn’t have an alarm
so my old man used to haul me out of bed
at four-thirty in the morning

there they’d be waiting for me

a stack of newspapers
when i couldn’t even see straight

i always remembered it being cold
when i had to deliver those things

sitting in the car with my old man
freezing my ass off
or leaning over him while he sprayed wd-40
to try and get the car to work

my old man always came with me

i was twelve and probably too young
to be delivering morning papers

so he’d sit inside the car listening to talk radio
keeping the heat running for me
so i could hop inside and get out of the cold

this kindness tempered my anger
at waking up before the sun rose

i didn’t like delivering the papers
navigating the neighborhood when it was still dark
and every house was pitch black

fighting off the dogs that had been left out all night
the raccoons that were still attacking last night’s garbage

often i would start to doze at school
while the other kids sat in class bright-eyed and well-rested

the money from the job wasn’t even that good

people would moan and complain at me
if their paper wasn’t outside the door by six
but they never seemed to be home
when i came to collect

except for a house full of teenage girls
who used to look at me like i was a piece of shit
when i came for my money

those girls were always around
to try and make me feel worse about my setup

the only joy that i got from the paper route job
was coming home and watching espn
while my old man woke my mother
and the two of them got ready for work

they had this exercise show on the channel, body shaping
that had these two chicks exercising
and lifting weights in bikinis

i used to watch that show
and tug on my pecker like i was working against the clock

waiting for something
anything to happen
every single morning

until one day….success

and that show tempered the anger
of getting up before the sun
way more than my old man
keeping that car running with the heat

or catching one of those teenage girls
walking around the house in her underwear

scratching her narrow ass

while i stood on the porch
stock still

waiting for the big payoff.


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