Pobrecito by John Grochalski

lena tells me that she doesn’t
think of herself as american

her parents are from ecuador
and she’s bilingual
so she has that pleasure

still, i joke with her that she’s more
red white and blue then i am
with her massive cell phone and her slang

i tell lena that i’d leave america
in a heartbeat if i could

the truth is i’ve never tried

i’m too lazy and incompetent to be an exile
and by mid-february of every year
i’m dusting off the baseball hats
and talking pitch counts and on base percentages

i think how nice it must be for lena
to slip into and out of another dialect
when the mood fits

to go almost incognito on these streets

like a typical yank, i don’t know a second language
yet i feel so often misunderstood in my own

i don’t know the cost
of talking in tongues here in america

but everywhere i travel
i wander around thinking that i live there

i stroll old cities lost in my thoughts of another life
hang around cafes listening to the music of a language
that i do not know

until the lust turns into something similar to hate
then i know it’s time to leave

i have to settle for the fact
that i no longer know my way around
the city of my birth

i get lost on streets that used to tell my story so succinctly
and i feel happy that this has happened

happy that i can no longer call somewhere home

in dark times i look forward
to the day when i’m no longer
son brother friend lover to anyone

just a stranger belonging to nowhere

a time of dust and calm
a blackness that i can really feel

or maybe just the sensation of drifting
further and further away from everyone

until their friendship and love
feel like specks of dust

cat litter flicked off the couch

their conversation the essence
of a language that i used to know
but can no longer decipher

without the help of a rosetta stone.

John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out, Glass City, In The Year of Everything Dying, Starting with the Last Name Grochalski, and the novel, The Librarian. Grochalski lives in Brooklyn, where he constantly worries about the high cost of everything.

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