Poetry: Selections From John Grochalski

if you can’t stand the heat
mrs. mussolini
used to pump the heat in her classroom
at the sign of
fall’s first frost
she’d pump it until it was full blast
ten minutes into it
kids would be touching their sweating faces
drooping their heads onto desks
forgetting subjects and predicates
kids would ask for the hall pass
just to get a break
mrs. mussolini dressed us down
for always being so lethargic in class
she’d point at the dewy windows and say
you know, you could be out there in the cold
then she’d tell us how lucky we were
to be so cozy inside
checking the heat
to see if she could pump it some more
while we suffocated
in her sticky hellscape
barely surviving the hour
until the bell rang
and we made it safely
to the cafeteria
shaky and confused
like torture victims
suddenly set free.

microwaved life
we don’t question
the system we’ve surrendered
our lives to
we talk about
work gossip
and retirement instead
we eat bland
microwaved food
at our desks
by pictures of loved ones
we hardly see
and all spiritual sayings
that we’ve printed up
just to keep sane.

the incredible hell
the incredible hell
was waking up at four-forty-five
in the morning
to the pitch black of my room
my brother still sleeping on his side
the demon-angel light
of the upstairs hallway blinding me
coming downstairs into the still living room
going outside into the cold
lugging in the bundle of morning papers
assembling them on the carpet
all of the misery and bliss of the world
on the front page
but i didn’t care
i wanted to be back in my bed
like the other thirteen-year-olds
instead of
walking around that neighborhood
before the sun rose
slinging papers into doorways
taped-up walkman playing michael jackson songs
hoping a car wouldn’t hit me
or a goddamned dog wouldn’t try to eat my soul
laying on the couch afterwards
trying to jerk-off to bikini-clad exercise women
before getting ready
to go to school
where bright-eyed and perky kids
sat upright in their chairs
waiting for the teacher’s instruction
jock boys with peach-fuzz moustaches
the nerds
the geeks
the girls growing tits
and how i hated them all
how i wanted to put my head down on the desk
and go to sleep
dream of a world
where i wasn’t up at four-forty-five in the morning
stupid, fat catholic school kid
that i was
who had no clue
that this was just the beginning
the start of the next thirty-five years
of incredible hells
paper jobs, mall jobs, library jobs,
desk jobs, warehouse jobs, retail jobs,
xerox jobs, pulling-staples-out-of-paper jobs,
garbage cleaning jobs, bookstore jobs,
so-called career jobs
so many layers of incredible hells
that it would make
a smart fucker like dante

broken oven, etc.
i think
my oven is left-leaning
lately, it refuses to work
and the fridge drips
from the freezer
in solidarity and protest
you can read about a lot of atrocities
from day to day
mass shootings and massive bombs
but you never read
about someone driven to the brink
by faulty plumbing
or the first whiff of a gas leak
america is hard enough
on a daily basis
without having to deal with another
broken appliance too
but the oven is broken
and the fridge leaks
and the blinds in the kitchen
are falling down again
it is 95-degrees here every day
and somewhere
is buying another automatic weapon
walking into a school or your job
to cause more automatic death

so maybe fuck the broken oven
and maybe fuck america too.

blonde on blonde again
i used
to ride her ass
until the cows came home
smoked cigarettes afterwards
staring at her while she slept
thinking, i’ve been in that
golden blond
like her pussy was magic
some kind of hidden treasure
until she dumped me
for a guy she’d been fucking
behind my back

John Grochalski is the author of five poetry collections and three novels. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.