Only Twenty More Years Until Retirement by John Grochalski

she stands
at the podium
with idiot knick-knacks
like face masks of birds and storybook characters
toys that make horrible noise
to the infirm or hungover
she screams, i work with kids!
because if you work with kids
you have to shout out loud like an asshole
and she keeps shouting
and singing in between the shouting
and the idiots sitting around me
in this hell-fire colored auditorium
think that this is a grand showcase of talent
a break from their otherwise monotonous existence
they laugh into each other’s fat faces
spraying bits of complimentary bagel and coffee
on each other’s cheeks
as the riot on stage keeps on with her juvenile torture
as always i am confounded by these types
outnumbered by them, as if in a street fight
in moments such as these
a touch of weakness shakes my spirit
and i wind up wondering if it’s me and not them
who has it all wrong
i wonder why i don’t find things like motivational speakers
or disney or broadway musicals or ice breakers
or this honking idiot on stage funny at all
as the crowd around me falls to their knees in laughter
begging her to do more of her shtick
this woman is akin to a dog whistle
and i am surrounded by capitulating mutts at attention
i think maybe i should just give in and surrender
but when she tells us all to stand
rub each other’s shoulders and sing row row row your boat
like kids do! she screams
and they all rise up in unison to do it
like lemmings
i simply sit there
as utterly alone in this world as always
seemingly pitiful to the naked eye
but as right as rain
as goddamned sure of myself
as i’ve ever been.


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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