The Body Painter by John Grochalski

he watches body painting videos
and it drives them all nuts

they huddle behind him
they say, oh, he’s watching porn again

but nothing illicit is happening
just naked people painting each other on busy sidewalks

the world is an odd place

just last week i stood at a corner with an unshaven batman
and a drunken santa claus

now i can see young people painting each other’s genitals

but what about the kids? they ask me

the kids are all right because they’re watching the painting videos too
pointing and laughing at the absurdity of the naked body
the way that kids have done for decades

they have access to much worse, i tell them

oh, that damned internet they say
except you can never get their phones out of their hands

you take the good with the bad in the twenty-first century

anal sex and body painting
for cute cat videos and little kids saying outrageous things

really, i think watching naked people paint each other
is kind of boring

this spectacle seems a systematic waste of time
indicative of the kind of digital slaves that we’ve become

but nobody wants to hear that
they just want me to go over and publically shame this man
for getting a few kicks

truthfully the body painting aficionado
doesn’t even look like he’s having a good time
watching the stuff

he just sits there with his arms crossed
as if he’s studying van gogh
or sitting through a lecture on dental hygiene

there’s nary a hard-on in sight

still they act as if the world is going to end by him viewing this business

because one excited woman is getting her breasts painted red
because one excited man is getting his balls painted blue
because there is decency and decorum to defend

and impressionable children around every corner

they must never read a newspaper
must never talk of bloodshed or famine

they must never stand on a street corner and think
jesus christ, this whole planet is sick and mad
and want to drown themselves in the river to escape its cruelty

if the body painter is their worst offender on earth
then may allah bless their souls

because eighty-two people
were slaughtered in syria yesterday

and madmen have taken over
the governments of the world

a woman two blocks down was raped last night
just trying to get home from her job

and no one here seems to have a goddamned thing to say
about any of  that.


John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the section that doesn’t have the bike sharing program.


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