John Grochalski

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the face on the table

is mine
three in the morning
ritter’s diner
after popping a buck in quarters
in the small tabletop juke
to hear james brown
i just collapsed into the new morning
my lips dirtied with nicotine
beer fogged on formica
steve and calvin
a slur of words above me
charting a course
for tomorrow night
tonight really
shit, there is no more comfortable surface
than this table
though i don’t think
the james brown is playing
i worry about vomiting later
i worry about vomiting now
silly little roman
silly little writer
who hasn’t written a word in months
but will tell you
what a genius he is
if only you’ll pour beer
down his gullet
bloodshot eyes
and suddenly there is light
a swirl of diner
calvin’s hand holding my hair
sorry ski
but the waitress needed a place
to put your food.

the coed

calvin just said
that they were older
but i’m trying to gauge the brunette
think maybe she’s thrity
or near thirty not above thirty
this shouldn’t matter anyway
because they’re both married
calvin and the way he picks women
he should just apply for an arranged marriage
get a russian who needs america
but she keeps looking at me
the way she keeps that straw in her mouth
no ring on her finger
christ, and here we are in a downtown bar
with no other action
save a pack of business bros
getting drunk on pitchers of beer
she says, well, what do you do? to me
what’s her name again, claire?
all of these c-names
carnie finally quit calling me
when she went back to school
autumn on pitt’s campus and i’m working
full-time at the library
still looking girls up on the database
still ducking cassandra behind the circ desk
still casing the campus like i belong
walking forbes and fifth with kris like we’re zombies
i tell claire i’m just trying to figure it all out
she says her husband drives trucks
he’s hardly ever home
and when he is i’m usually at school so…..
her ginger friend looks at her like
takes claire to the bathroom
like a couple of middle school girls
while calvin and i sit there
nursing whiskey drinks we don’t usually drink
another shit-eating grin on his face
two nowhere men playing sophisticated
two nowhere women playing single
in this sad bar on a weeknight
he says, so. ski, man tell me
what do you really think our chances are tonight?

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 novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the section that doesn’t have the bike sharing program.