Poems from Joe Grochalski

all the good people with cokes and ice cream cones


all the good people with cokes and ice cream cones

are walking the george washington bridge

they are taking photos of new york city

selfies and group shots to post online

and bike riders are riding in lycra gangs ringing their asinine bells at anyone in their way

and the joggers are getting fit


it’s seventy degrees out in february

for a third day

it is so easy to smile into the face of our own ecological damnation

ah, but the hudson river looks like melted gold reflecting off of the sun

and manhattan shines like a wondrous emerald

oz today we are sweating as we hustle along the bridge

tomorrow there will be snow showers

and the weather will barely reach forty

and the lovers holding hands will hide inside and shiver


the wind will howl

tossing garbage cans and tree bark

the bike riders and joggers will take the bus

and all the good people with cokes and ice cream cones will sit in their homes and sip tea and eat soup

manhattan will turn gray again

the hudson river will get choppy

the sun will shun us like dead love

february will make february great again for at least a couple of days

before it turns seventy degrees once more

and all of the people will come back outside to walk the george washington bridge

like clueless lemmings smiling zombies waddling in end times

never thinking for a moment how much better it could be to simply step up on the metal ledge and jump the hell off.



poem to the woke white guy in the noodle shop on 53rd


if you think the word violence

can be attributed to a group of white women

directing a play full of cuban actors

then i suggest you check

out the latest news from syria

or, hell, walk through any neighborhood in america these days

though just maybe not ones like you grew up in

but if it is such a violence

then why are you even working on the play?

there are a million starving artists in the city

willing to play stage hand

who’d be happy to spend their days at the MoMA

despite its “inherent whiteness” as you say

and what does that even mean?

are you talking about picasso or stagecraft?

sure, good ol’ pablo loved to abuse his women

if you want violence it’s right there on the canvas for you buddy

also…where do you get off saying shit like that?

the violence

especially to the woman

you’re slurping noodles with this fine evening

is this some new millennial hipster

way to get someone into bed?

use a bunch of empathetic buzzwords

show her how woke you are

and then BAM! you’re both in the sack?

a part of me wishes she’d see through your bullshit

but i know america too well

and white dudes are masters are turning anything on its head to suit them

so she just sits there and empathizes with you

as if you were a wounded dear

and you’re doing a good job sitting there playing your part

eyes welling with tears and unable to finish your meal

with so many people going hungry

there’s a violence in wasting food too, you know

so maybe you should buck up camper

stop being the last, sad, white male liberal in america

pull yourself together and play on your phone

update your instagram with a couple of healing selfies

finish your dinner

steel yourself for whatever violence awaits you tomorrow morning

like if someone forgets to say good morning

or heaven forbid someone says god bless you instead

of gesundheit when you sneeze



second cousin jim


i get an email from my brother

entitled look who i ran into


attached is a picture of him

and our second cousin jim at an AA meeting

somewhere in pittsburgh


my brother makes the rounds at those things

it keeps him going


but second cousin jim isn’t coping so well


sixteen days sober after countless tries

after countless years in the system, jail and otherwise


living in a half-way house after living on the streets


he’s a far cry from the suburban football hero

who broke through banners


wore his hair long and dressed in nothing but tracksuits

like he was always going to the gym


instead of out to the bar or to score pills behind his wife’s back


addicts are good at hiding that kind of shit, my brother says

because he knows


sick and sweating in front of a computer

i sit back and think about all of the extra drinks

that i’ve lied to myself about


the little spit dumped in here and there

while caught in the glow of some after work album


the hidden bottles of vodka in duffle bags at christmas

hangovers that i play off as sinus headaches


try to picture myself at an AA meeting

with my brother and second cousin jim


but i don’t quite see myself sitting there just yet


i don’t know what it is about family…our family

booze and pills and gambling addictions


once my grandmother checked herself into western psych

after blowing her paycheck

on the devil and all his sins in one afternoon


in the end she died of whisky throat and cigarette lungs


maybe we’re all looking for a relevance

that the working world offered but never fulfilled to our kind


an escape from a family tree that wants to hang us


my brother says that second cousin jim

didn’t even recognize him at first


he says he took a picture with him because

he wasn’t sure he’d ever see jim alive again


i floated him a twenty, my brother said

even though he’s scraping by on two jobs

has child support for a daughter he mostly sees via skype


i sit here this morning

nursing the remnants of another night of vodka and wine

wondering what second cousin jim is going to do with that money

or if it even matters anymore


what’s twenty dollars after a life on the line?

after more failures and disappointments than your body can sum up?


a momentary reprieve at best


a chance to hit the streets but for an hour so

find some corner where you can run through those banners again

be the football hero everlasting


or feel the soft wind blowing through your long samson hair

as you take a hacksaw to that family tree


and cut




until you got no more to give.



guy in front of my kitchen window at 7:30 a.m. (saturday)


he’s usually shouting into his cell phone

something he forgot to tell the friend

who just dropped him back home from the graveyard shift


some dumb shit about movies or metal music


his voice makes all of the dogs in the neighborhood

bark in unison


half a dozen mangy fuckers taking their morning constitutionals

singing along to his rough cadence


i don’t know why he picks my kitchen window to stand in front of for this


could be he’s attracted by the soft light

or the smell of coffee brewing


honestly i’m at the age where i’m done trying to figure people out


i’ll just say that his voice is so loud i can’t do anything while he’s out there

write or read or take my own morning shit


he makes me wonder why i’m up so goddamned early in the first place

especially on mornings when i don’t have to go to the job


i used to open my window and stick my head outside

wanting to scream down at his ass or threaten him with a shovel

bark about the audacity of someone screaming so loud

before the sun is fully up in the ugly sky


but he’d just see me and nod and wave and say, what’s up, bro?

all genial and shit like we’re old college buddies


so i figured it was best to get let him finish his conversation

lest i be dragged into it over some triviality

or become a part of the noise pollution problem too


however, it is strange having someone else’s voice

in my apartment that early in the morning

when it’s typically just me and the hangover and john coltrane


strange to suffer this inanity as if it came with the monthly rent


i think an awful lot about moving

when he’s shouting out there so early


or when the dogs start to bark or their owners mill about

my living room window playing on their phones

leaving mounds of dog turds on the pavement

while they like some ex-lover’s instagram page


but i’ve been living in this shit-hole for over a decade now

the longest i’ve ever lived anywhere


before that it was three cities, three cars, countless jobs

and at least eight apartments

full of people every bit as annoying as this asshole


i’ve learned that you lose no matter where you go

i’ve learned that there is no solace from people in america


and that i’ve simply grown too tired and too old to move


so this morning while he’s out there

screaming over another morning dove’s song


i’ll just casually go by and close the kitchen blind

before he sees me and waves


take another bad book of poetry with me into the shitter

where some poet’s lines will give me such indigestion


i’ll pass gas like i’m moving thunder


so loudly

that maybe the guy standing in front of my kitchen window

at 7:30 in the morning

will hear it and comment to his buddy


like, holy shit, bro…. did you hear that?


or maybe he’ll finally get the hint

and take his show up a block or two


christen someone else’s saturday morning


over the plot of the new avengers movie

what was the best AC/DC album

or why it too so long for guns’n’roses to get it back together





apostates are we




dead on arrival

hungover and hobbling

dodging dog shit

vomit and swirling trash


the sun such a merciless whore in the sky



the religious ladies

huddled at 53rd

with their good news pamphlets

and fast food coffee

won’t smile

and ask me


if i’ve made right

with good ol’

jesus christ.