Poetry from John Grochalski

marin says


marin says,

like what am i supposed to do?

like i’m just

supposed to take it

and they know that

i mean

i’m their waitress


marin says,

they knows this

but they still try to bait me

like they ask me

if i voted for trump

because i’m latina

one of them keeps asking me

what i think about his policies


what am i going to say?



i think trump is a sexist, racist ass

but i need your tip money

even though i know the whole group

gives rachel more money

when she waits on them


marin says,

the one in the make america great again hat

he’s always talking about

all the great things trump

has done already for america

like they say to me

even though i’m mexican

i was born here

so i should be cool with the government

kicking the illegals out


i’m not even mexican

i’ve never even been to mexico


marin says,

i want to like tell them all off

show them a map of south america or something

show them what chile looks like

but the little bit of money

that they do give me

i actually use

for like college

for like my rent


it’s just frustrating sometimes


marin says,

the job is all right otherwise

families with loud, messy kids tip well

you get college kids in

people my age

but they just sit around drinking coffee

and playing on their phones

sometimes they forget to leave anything


but i like them

better than the people who come in

on my morning shift


at least we don’t always have to talk politics


marin says

on the days those people don’t come in

it’s pretty okay working

at donnie’s

like i can almost forget that trump

is the president

or like my feet are sore

or that i’ll be smelling like bacon all afternoon


and how when the shift ends

i only have an hour to race over to manhattan


or i’ll be late

for my calculus class

or sometimes my biology 101

barney got it worse


the three drunks

that are left in the bar

start their shit the minute i walk in


oh, one says, this is an anybody bar


a slouch on in bar, another says


they’re old so there’s really not much that i can do

except feign ignorance

and hope something on the tv catches their attention


the slouch on inn! the last one shouts

and they all have a good laugh


well, that’s fine

there isn’t much to laugh about these days


i’m in the bar half drunk

after fighting with my wife over bills


but barney got it worse than me


he comes back behind the bar to a chorus of boos


one of the old timers says,

christ, barn, how long you been doing this?


twenty-five years, he says


and you still can’t afford a decent pair of pants!


hey barn, why don’t you ask jim for a raise?


barney shakes his head

says he thinks jim is skimming off his tip money


which is the wrong thing to say


i’ve known jim thirty years, one drunk says


you got a lot of nerve saying that, the other adds


the third one sits drinking his beer

he finally spits, you wouldn’t be worth shit

if it weren’t for jim, and you know it


slams his bottle on the bar and says,

you owe me one


barney pulls a bud from the cooler and slams it down

without twisting off the top


but he doesn’t take the drunk’s cash

just walks to the other end of the bar


he looks out the window

into the smear of glass and neon

at people holding pizza boxes and bottles of wine


at lovers holding hands and not arguing over bills


barney says to me, now what do you want?


as one old drunk says to the others,

skimming his tips…the nerve


when i say i’ll take a pint of bud they all shout in unison


a slouch on in bar!

they’ll let anyone in these days!

the slouch on inn!


you get it, barney, one of them says


nah, barney don’t get nothin’


never has

and he never will.


devil outside my window


spiked heels

that horse gallop

the pavement

and a voice like a braying donkey

she paces outside my apartment window

on another hot night in winter

yelling into her cell phone

no….an asinine headset to be correct

about baby daddies and paternity tests

there’s something about her cadence

that won’t let her voice simply

echo out into the humid night

just in from the job and all i want is a double vodka

and the classical music station

but it never works out that way

if it wasn’t her it would be somebody else

shouting about their ex or screaming into their phone

while they let their dog shit

without cleaning up after it

or it would be some mundane banter about clothes

or how good their iced coconutmilk mocha macchiato is

anything to not be alone with their thoughts

i feel as though i conjure these people

or someone has hired them just to torture me

the second they see the kitchen light go on

or this is simply what society has devolved into

i’ve been living in cities too long

still…her voice could seriously gas a nation

it’s worse than north korean nuclear warheads

i’m too tired and beaten

to get my ass off the couch and shout at her

have baby daddy come down the block

and start some drama

there’s too much drama in america already

and not enough vodka in my life

so i’m stuck

unless she decides some tender mercy and walks away

or all of the air shoves out of her lungs

and she falls dead on the ground

christ, i think

taking the first sip on the sweating drink

some days it’s as simple as opening a window

to find a certain kind of hell.


subway toll booth operator (2003)


i remember thinking

new york city looked fun

if you had money or were a tourist

i remember thinking

the bank account would hold for another

six weeks

if i didn’t find something

my wife was working

but it was a temp job in a small office

with an old man who farted while he slept at his desk

i couldn’t even find that kind of job

one temp agency stopped calling me

and the other was getting fed up

i interviewed for everything

secretary in a law firm to file clerk at citibank

i walked out of an interview at a famous bookstore

when i realized working there over-time every week

wouldn’t cover the rent

but at least i’d aced their little literary quiz

there were days  i just rode the subway

from start to finish on some lines

re-reading kerouac and wondering where i’d gone wrong

passing and repassing that big

world trade center sized hole in the dirt

the thought of another dinner

of hot dogs and boxed mac’n’cheese

already making me feel sick

i remember thinking

that i wished i never moved away from pittsburgh

even though i’d used up everything there was

to use up there

i spent my twenty-ninth birthday crying on the hardwood floor

looking for jobs on a computer

that we didn’t even have a desk for

i remember wishing

that i had superhuman strength

strength enough to break through that bullet proof glass

and pull that subway toll booth operator

out by his neck

when my metrocard wouldn’t work

and he told me i had to wait twenty minutes for it to reset

which would’ve made me late

for the only job that had called me in almost two weeks

but instead i stood there

in front of his booth

defeated and ready for the noose

waves of fear falling all around me

until he looked up smugly

and pressed the buzzer for the emergency door

and i thanked him like some kind of peasant

and i ran and ran and almost fell down the subway steps

sweating in an ill-fitting suit and tie

riding breathless all the way into queens

for a file clerk job at an insurance company

whose cut-rate car insurance i couldn’t even afford

a trusted fortune 500 company

who told me two days later

via an electric voice mail who slaughtered my last name

that i didn’t get the job

but thanks for my interest in applying.


under donald trump


found myself

thinking about how it must feel

for melania under donald trump

i mean is it a horrifying thirty seconds

trapped beneath what looks like

two hundred and sixty pounds of orange plastic garbage bags?

does she imagine he’s one of his grease-ball sons

as trump pumps away thinking about

fourteen year old pageant contestants or thai ladyboys

are the moans of pleasure real?

although from what we’ve heard in the press

about the donald’s baby-dick

a certain amount of acting must be taking place

and does melania think about that?

like what her life could’ve been

if she hadn’t traded it all to become a trophy wife

to america’s biggest philistine

would it be B horror or B comedy films?

the harmless tit flick on late night cable tv

would the modeling career have taken off

jet setting and celebrity romance?

or maybe she would’ve chucked it all

and become a neurosurgeon

…i’m talking after the work visa came through

does she regret being a part of the birther movement

christ, can she even breathe under that slobbering beast?

wondering what pussy he grabbed on the way home

if it was assault, consensual at all?

i can’t even imagine being asphyxiated under that nazi

smelling his red meat breath

tasting his poisoned saliva

while being bitch-slapped with his comb-over

…and pretending to like it?

give melania the academy award for that one

or better yet for even being able to smile in public

holding hands with that philandering, sherbet grinch

i don’t even know

what got me thinking about this shit in the first place

i was in midtown and i was hungry

i got lost looking for the NBC store at rockefeller center

and some black dude tried to hand me a cd of music

saying don’t be scared of black people, when i wouldn’t take it

and i thought about being frightened

being truly frightened

and then she just came to me

melania under donald trump

pretending at her job like we all do

giving his flabby ass a cursory squeeze

secretly praying for him to finish in under twenty seconds

hoping for a better and more fulfilling life

or maybe just to get fired

grab the kid

a stack of cash

and take the first available flight

back to stunning slovenia