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John Grochalski

mike the pilot drinks at the catch-22 bar

his face is cherub red
and pock-marked

a w.c. fields tribute of abuse

his belly has grown
to a tank of cheap beer

it’s been eleven years
many a blurry night between us

but i recognize him anyway

even if he’s not clad
in a white short-sleeved shirt

with those striped patches on his shoulders
the wings pinned crooked on his breast

all day on the new york to chicago run
all evening taking up a stool at rooney’s pub

soused enough to make me think twice
about every commercial flight i took

mike the pilot drinks
at the catch-22 bar

with a woman who looks
twenty years younger than him

looks disappointed and bored
as she sits there picking at a bowl of pretzels

watching his head bob up and down

a man starving for slumber
more than conversation and alcohol

like mike was never the man
who took mona on the men’s room sink

and make her cum so hard
that it broke right off its hinges
and cracked in half

on the sticky, piss-stained floor

mike the pilot
looks old and useless

sitting there in the catch-22
with his beer untouched

all of the action and adventure
drained right out of him

the years gone from blessings into a curse

as the woman he’s with
gets up to play a song on the jukebox

a classic one from back
when mike was young and virile

when the booze flowed like rivers
the uniform was animal magnetism

and the bright, blue sky
was likely everything to him

except the limit.

poem to the young men smoking marijuana
outside my bedroom window at midnight

i think of a past me
when i come to my bedroom window
to meet you head on

the guy who would tell you bastards to get lost

the guy who’d be grabbing for his sneakers
a hammer, a broom handle or a baseball bat

the drunken idiot
who would storm outside defenseless

ranting and raving
hoping that lunacy would be enough
to scare you idiots off

i think of him…and he’s like a ghost

all i can do is stand there
in the darkness and glare at you

as you four stare dully at me

the pot stench wafting into my bedroom
strong and skunk-like and out of my control

know that it’s my fault for living on the first floor

know that it’s my fault for trying to carve out
some kind of peaceful life in america

slam the window shut
to your collective laughter

and go back to bed
my back to the window

like the coward

that age and time
have gone and made me.

John Grochalski is the author of the poetry collections, 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 Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha 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.


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