Two Poems by John Grochalski

vanity fair

the poet
had a display for her new book
up at the old squirrel hill barnes & noble

but that wasn’t enough for her

she found me working the circulation desk
in the midst of another hangover

contemplating my fourteen thousand a year salary
and the fact that no one wanted my writing

she said, there’s a display in the lobby
for black history month

okay, i said

i knew the poet from seeing her around campus
back when i went there and thought that college
meant that you’d amount to something in life

other than being a guy with a hangover
working the circulation desk for 14K a year

she said, where’s my book?
you have all of the usual suspects in there
baldwin, hughes, dubois, wright, douglas, and ellison

all men, she said

if you look closely, i said,
i think there’s some rita dove

the poet said, that’s not the point
the point is i’m a woman, a black woman

i’m an artist in this city and a teacher
i do readings, i sit on committees

i’ve written three books in twenty years
and none of them are in your display

i want to know what
you’re going to do about this?
the poet asked me

i shrugged
i said, lady, i think you’re overvaluing
my place in this institution

they check my bag when i leave here
to make sure that i don’t steal anything

oh please, the poet said
because she wasn’t buying my oppression

i wanted to tell her all about hangovers
and fourteen thousand a year
rejection letters and manuscripts fit to burn

but she said, well, something has to be done about this

i said, why don’t you go
up to the barnes & noble
stare at the display of your book for a few hours

maybe that’ll help

the poet rolled her eyes
she said, this isn’t finished

then she stormed out of the library
into the bright cold of an early february afternoon

to go and teach people
how to become poets just like her

while i stood there and checked my wallet
found that i had three dollars left

almost screamed out hallelujah
then wondered what it was i’d do for lunch.

emmylou harris

when i turned thirty
i told my wife
when i turn forty
i’m going to start a punk band
with some old warriors
with teenagers and kids in their twenties
we’ll be the fuckheads
last night she reminded me
that was eleven years ago
i told her time flies like time flies
plus kids in their teens and twenties
are dull substitutes for humanity
they know everything
and they know nothing
they always have their heads buried
in some device made in china
plus i always hated punk music
and i never learned how to play guitar
but would if i could now
i wouldn’t start a band
the idea of collaboration is so foreign to me
i’d just want a bunch of yes men around
to carry out my ideas
my each and every whim
or maybe i’d go it completely alone
record my old man jingles on a computer
give emmylou harris a call
and have her sing background for me
like she did for dylan and neil
and practically everyone else
old emmylou has to be pushing seventy now
but i’ll bet her voice is like a fine wine
more refined than
some twentysomethings
who’d spend their breaks in the recording sessions
smoking e-cigarettes and texting
looking up videos
of people cracking each other in the nuts
instead of coming outside
to get high behind the trash bins
with the rest of the fuckheads
in the band.

One Response to “Two Poems by John Grochalski”

  1. Two great poems. Thanks to you!

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