Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Starting with the Last Name Grochalski by John Grochalski

Published by Coleridge Street Books, John Grochalski’s collection Starting with the Last Name Grochalski is bared teeth, pull-no-punches honest and at times humorous. From daily observations that hold the poet captive to memories stripped down to their essence, Grochalski takes us on a journey of his life observed in detail. Below I am happy to share a few samples:

the sunbather’s ass

she sunbathes

in a rose garden
in brooklyn

her bikini top off

her ass barely covered
in a thong

the young boy
walks by

pointing and smiling
at her

tugging his
embarrassed mother’s

feeling a new kind
of want
inside of him

one so deep
that he’ll one day
beg for it

to let him go.

This poem makes me smile because it makes me think “this is how it starts,” when young boys learn to be interested in females. I think every parent has had to deal with this scene in some way, their young child noticing bare flesh and the parent being at a loss for a reaction or what to say other than to be embarrassed. I also love that the poet adds that the young boy will beg for this want inside of him to let go, the beginning of lustful feelings and their powerful hold will be wished away.

that’s what i want

there’s never enough money
in my wallet

never enough money
in the bank account

once when i was younger
my mother broke my piggybank
to buy us milk and bread

she cried when she told me
she’d pay it back

and all those years later i’m still so scared

that there’s never enough money
hiding underneath the soiled couch cushions

never enough money
in this little old world

for me

This poem strikes a chord with me and I’m sure it strikes a chord with many of you. We all struggle with money at some point in our lives and it makes you feel vulnerable no matter how young or how old you are. The line “and all those years later i’m still so scared” is a powerful statement. A memory so deep that years later it still makes the grown version of the boy feel scared about having enough to this day.


bobby mueller had these
two doberman pinschers
that he’d sick on us
whenever he walked past his house

you’d hear a whistle from the porch
and then these two salivating beasts
would come tearing across the yard

smacking off the fence
foaming at the mouth
trying to get at you before you knew
what was happening.

no one knew what made bobby do this

he was troubled people said
there were family issues
the kid was just a world class asshole

when he wasn’t sicking the Dobermans on us
bobby would ride around in his old man’s car
and throw his garbage at us

mcdonald’s bags full of half-eaten food
the carton of eggs he’d bought at foodland
or wd40 canisters from his backseat

in the winter he’d throw snowballs at us kids
that were laced with rocks and other things
just to give them an extra sting when they hit
your cold, red face
or he’d toss icicles like they were darts

but nothing was as bad as watching those two
goddamned dogs come charging at you

looking at the mueller’s fence as it shook
the gray foam on the beasts’ jowls

their yellow fangs snapping at air, hoping for flesh

listening to bobby’s laughter on the porch
as he chain smoked winstons
and asked you if you’d pissed your pants yet

knowing that you probably had before you tore off back home

his sick laughter trailing you
the convenience store and baseball cards be damned

when bobby took his own life on new year’s eve
in that devil car with the motor running in the garage

a lot of us kids
were more relieved than saddened
as our parents sat us down to make sense of it

it was like a war had ended
peace had somehow been restored
our trivial civilization saved
from strawberry milkshake Molotov cocktails
snowballs with rusty razors hidden in their core

or the snap and strangle of those Dobermans
who now stayed in the Mueller home most of the time
looking out of darkened windows

or when they were in the yard
paced around the muddy landscape
with thick chains around their necks

while all of us emboldened bastard kids
taunted them like paper tiger tough guys

happy to have the vigor and fight
drained from their murderous bodies

now that their master was gone to heaven
like all of those fat priests had said.

This poem hits me at my own core. Having been through hell as a kid in a variety of ways, this one about bullying I can relate to. I can also relate to feeling relief instead of sympathy or sorrow when the bully falls into tragedy. I could go on for pages but I won’t. I’ll simply say that having been through hell inspires people to either become hell raisers themselves or to become those who champion against bullying. I champion against it.

If you enjoyed Starting with the Last Name Grochalski by John Grochalski, you may purchase a copy for yourself for $9.00 at:

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…