John Grochalski

take a bow


listening to madonna songs

of all things

which means that i’ve run out

of any and everything to do in this world

like last night how i told my wife

that life is boredom and that death didn’t scare me

which is one hell of a lie to tell

to the person you lay down with at night

and i wasn’t even on but one drink

a little too early for the dramatics of a sunday night

i wonder when i’ll stop this cold madness

stop inflicting such hurt

with little words, with little phrases of gloom

and the madonna keeps playing

as i walk past expired cars and grotesque homes

past old, bloated men playing golf

a song from twenty-two years ago comes on

that i remember bellowing through

the house of my ex-girlfriend

the night i came over to collect my shit

while another girl waited for me at a south side bar

such a low rent don juan i was

throwing my clothes, my books

the poetry manuscript that she hadn’t even read

into a big black garbage bag

all the ephemera of twenty-one months of wasted time

thinking how much better than her i’d been

how much better kept together i was in that final moment

as the ex kept pounding up the stairs

to replay the sappy madonna song

crying and crying and crying

as if it were the end of the world

instead of just getting rid of me

and it seems fitting that i should be subject to it now

still the source of someone’s pain

how discontent has followed me like some plague

i think maybe i should skip the little memory trip

shut the music off and listen

to the subway trains and the hustle of fruit stands

but there’s something soothing

in the song

in madonna’s voice

and the memories have given me

such a fine melancholia for this gray morning

not unlike being alone on the gray-green ocean

in the middle of a soft rain

and when madonna tells me to take a bow

i don’t even have to think

but spin and stop outside a closed down laundry

and dip low

almost to the crack concrete

enlightened like buddha

as if kissing the ground to be alive.




where the spirit shines

and my pride blocks out all the light


the cat howls

her death rattle in the morning

for two and a half hours

while i sculpt shitty fictions

and the sun boils outside

like a rotten egg

and now i have these kids

making a huge card for a politician

thanking him for whatever

we thank politicians for these days

and they are drawing

flags and moons and flowers and rockets

and more flags and smiley faces

writing god bless the u.s.a.

all over the thing

while i think about putting the cat down

and killing this novel for the third time

when out of nowhere

she shoves her cell phone in my face

and there is the politician looking back at me

smiling and magical and american

then she asks

her childlike smile as precious as a basket of puppies

why are you so ugly

when he’s so handsome?

and i have an answer for her somewhere

i swear i really do

somewhere deep down in me

where the spirit shines

and my pride blocks out all the light

and i’d say it

if only i could give myself

some cold, hard words

learn to speak the trifling language

of self-preservation

once again.



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