Poetry from John Grochalski

the brunch people


the brunch people

are lining saint marks place

on an early sunday afternoon

the brunch people women wear cute little dresses

and the men wear polo shirts with the collars up

they are named becca and staci

todd and blake and kyle

and they are as boring as a parade on the fourth of july

the brunch people play on cell phones

or talk about banal things like taylor swift music

and the national football league

their voices sound like honking cars in traffic

and they never worry about hunger or war

the brunch people giggle

because they are drinking mimosas with champagne

before one o’clock in the afternoon

a few of them will be asleep by four p.m.

at least one becca or staci

will vomit on the pavement or have to fight off

the advances of one of the kyles

the brunch people love bacon and eggs

and specialty coffees that taste like mint

they love starbucks and 7-11 and dunkin

and watching from their rooftop pool parties

as people who’ve lived here for years

get their asses thrown out on the street

the brunch people take the word gentrification as a complement

they’ve started phrases “i’m not racist but…”

they were put on this earth to eat french toast

and destroy us as quickly as they can

the brunch people have college degrees

but they don’t have college debt

most of them are heading toward thirty

and their parents still pay their rent

mommy had to call blake off from his job last friday

because he was hungover from

too much partying with todd

the brunch people laugh about the mundane

throw their trash on the ground

and never really pay the cost for anything in this country

if you stopped one and asked them if they were human

i’m willing to bet you twenty dollars

most of them wouldn’t know what

in the hell to say.

notes from inside the Petco adoptapalooza (union square)


and to think that only two days ago

i was drunk and crying over our poor

dead cats and really i hate when i get

that way except i always keep the flood

gates back until i can’t handle it anymore

call it toxic masculinity rearing its ugly

head again i don’t know all i know is that

i got you crying too and we talked about

the old times because we’re old enough to

have old times that really seem like they

happened a long time ago and we talked about

traveling to japan pet allergies the vet who let

our girl live two years longer than she

should’ve deaf and blind and i know i wasn’t

so good to her at times and i think maybe

that’s what made me start crying thinking

about june helpless in that dark world and

me not quite understanding and yelling and pleading

with her to shut up and how we’re

almost one year away from her being gone

another old memory and dear how can our

years together be summed up to old memories

and the passage of time that is so slick its creeps

up on you one moment two kids smoking cigarettes

in bed after marathon sex to right now old

and gray and talking about our jobs and being tired

and how we’re never getting another pet

but my god you need to get me out of union square

right now with this Petco adoptapalooza

and all those little kitties in cages like prisoners

like this white one right here who keeps staring

at me with her milky blue eyes like she

can see into my sould my god i love her so

much in this moment that i have no choice

but to take your arm and walk away.


one for michelle

they say
love and lust can eat you alive
only for my eighteenth summer
i couldn’t tell the two apart
i just knew how special michelle
made me feel when we worked together
how all those times i rode out to the mall
when i wasn’t even scheduled
to bullshit with her on her shift
she acted like i was the center of her world
until the boss pulled me in the back room
and told me that he didn’t want to see me
unless he was paying me to be there
michelle was twenty one and going to be a senior in college
where i was just getting ready to start in the fall
she liked to tell me how much fun i was going to have
even though she lived on a campus two hours away from her family
and i’d be hiking to mine from my childhood home
still i let her talk
because she seemed to like discussing her recent past
because i had nothing of any substance to say
because i knew when our shift was done
michelle would let me walk her to her car
even though nothing ever happened between us
and she never gave me a lift over to mine
still every song on the radio reminded me of her
subtle nuances in romantic movies
where the stuff of epic daydreams
when michelle left to go back to college
i was heartbroken for a week
until i got down to campus and there were hundreds of her
running around from class to class
making their own memories
while i desperately tried to fit them into mine
and when michelle came back to work the mall at christmas
it didn’t even bother me that she fell for
some dude working at taco bell in the food court
or the fact that michelle
had been secretly dating my co-worker all summer
or how much of an asshole i must’ve looked
to all of them back in july
riding out to see her all those free afternoons
hanging around and acting like some excited lap dog
wasting all of that precious gas.


they serve seven dollar beers in hell



at the white horse tavern

which crosses that line

between tourist trap and neighborhood pub

seven dollars ain’t so bad

when you can watch millionaire actors

play with their kids in concrete parks

as a sea of hired cars and limos

roll slowly down hudson street

if that doesn’t grab you think of the history of the joint

dylan thomas took his fatal shot here

and jack kerouac used to get bounced all the time

james baldwin and hunter s. thompson saddled up to the bar

and even mr. mojo risin’ himself

jim morrison used to hit the white horse

when he came to the easst coast

labor organizers and socialists drank here

jane jacobs stiffened her joints with a few pints on this very spot

before taking robert moses’ ass to task

you’re drinking history at this joint, my friends

making history of your own

paying for all those midwestern farts

and southern belles to come waltzing in for a drink

sure, they might have cheaper beer

in cleveland, pittsburgh or buffalo

but the problem is you’d have to drink it there

august wilson never got bounced

from a bar in pittsburgh

at least not in anything that i’ve ever read

so clink your glasses and run up that tab

they’ll be jobs and problems to go back to tomorrow

to help pay off this unreasonable debt

cities and towns that never offed a poet in his prime

remember to tip the waitress well

she’s been working her ass off all afternoon

refilling those pints

for red faced poets screaming into the void

and that couple over there from minnesota

the ones who think that getting ripped off in the village

is all a part of the experience

that sweet couple who’ll fly home tomorrow

to tell all their friends what a great time they had

and just how dirty and stinking and expensive

new york city still really is.


this american life


this american life

is for people with money

it’s a loser sign

posted on your back

before the first cup of coffee

or the first day of school

it’s the self-delusion

of an exceptional day

waxing poetic about streaming tv shows

and super hero movies

updating your facebook posts

and scanning your twitter feeds for confirmation

building walls you can’t even see

this american life

is made for war profits

and water surges

breathing in smog

bathing in chemicals

a three-thousand mile fantasyland

for philistines with a heavy cash flow

to exploit workers

and become emperors with no clothes

it’s diarrhea-the-mouth

corporate media and fake news

a boot-strapping dildo

shoved up an ungreased asshole

this american life

is reefer madness and breakfast burritos

for white kids on college campuses

a mass incarceration salsa

twerking appropriation in the hood

it’s gimme


your tired your poor your huddled masses

yearning to breathe free

and i’ll scapegoat them whenever i get the chance

this american life

is a fallacy flag stuck in your pretty lawn

in a gentrified neighborhood

where uncle sam is a slum lord

and the statue of liberty

ain’t nothing

but a lazy whore