photographs of artists

doing keg stands at backyard parties
drinking beer out of plastic cups
smearing cake on each other's faces
as guitars sit alone in corners
taking candid shots in bars surrounded
by empty beer bottles
doing heroic poses in bowling alleys
on 1980s nights
sweating with beer eyes against a backdrop
of red brick and sand
mugging on roller coasters
looking pensive when they pick up the guitar
standing solo at poetry readings in front
of their whole washed up world
writing nothing that could save a snail
wearing vintage clothes and hanging
in red, leather booths in vintage bars
having their hair turn gray, going bald
while trying to stay young
seeing ancient rock bands play ancient songs
on worthless weeknights
seeking out new bands full of kids
doing the same banal things
posing for pictures on sculptures, on petrified limbs
of trees, making me sick with their careless smiles,
with their dunderheaded group-think,
without any originality,
with the sin of actually waking in the morning
and plaguing the day
with apartments in the right parts of the city
without debt
without worry
i look at these pictures of artists,
as they sail through a life of ease, of hours
with no strife,
without the knowledge of suffering,
and i want to burn the pictures
burn their scene in effigy
create a funeral pyre out of all the nonsense
because if these are the artists, my friends
then i fear for art, or it is already dead
and, i guess, so what.

julie always
--for julie fritz

julie always
writes me emails when
she's drunk on wine
and she screws up the prose
then she writes me another
email again
with the words spelled
blaming the booze,
and i read the email again
even though i knew
what she meant
the first time with
the misspelled words.
lately julie always
asks me how far
it is from albany
to new york city
as if i sit at the computer
with an atlas,
and not a tallboy of beer.
well, julie,
tonight for you,
i can safely say
that albany is 159.3 miles
away from new york,
and if you choose to come
it'll take you about
two hours and twenty-eight
and when you get here
you can see first hand
that ally and the kitties
are fine,
and we can both sit
in the living room
as mexican kids wander
up and down bay ridge parkway,
and we can drink tons of
cheap chilean wine
like we used to do
on the ride home from work,
and if we both start to slur,
at least we can repeat
and no one has to go
sending second emails
just to try and make sense
of themselves.

poet's don't drink

the pittsburgh poets want beer
at the reading we are doing,
so we leave the bar where none of them
were really drinking anyway,
and we head to a pizza joint fronted by the mafia
to a buy a 12-pack from low-level goons.
i am drunk already
after having spent the day in the city
of my birth
then in its bars, watching the decline
of civilization
fall out of the mouths of babes.
at the counter, i hand the poets money
enough money
because i think a 12-pack won't be enough
for the reading.
and it's not,
but they don't listen to me
because poets think that they know everything,
and we settle on the lone 12-pack.
at the reading the poets are being stingy with the beer
because of their stupidity.
they hide the beer behind a counter
full of their books and broadsides,
only letting the other poets and shitty artists drink it.
but poets can't drink, at least not anymore.
they get sloppy and lose their shine.
they can't be geniuses on beer,
so the 12-pack sits, mostly,
until i start taking two at a time
because i'm a fucking gunslinger poet
who still drinks.
i'm even featured on their flyer.
occasionally i sneak a few beers for the people
who were kind enough to come and see me.
soon the 12-pack is gone
because of me and my friends,
so the poets collect more money to go and buy
more beer from the italian gangsters making pizza.
it will be beer that they won't drink,
but, for me, it will be the best thing that the poets do
all night.
but what do i know about kindness and art?
i'm no longer from pittsburgh
and i don't count in their little scene.
i'm not any kind of out of town bigshot
gunslinger poet, anyway, even though i tried to play
at it.
and my name is second to last on the flyer,
right after the asshole performance artist
who brought a projector to do his reading with,
and right before the musical act
that no one stuck around to see.

John Grochalski is a published writer whose poetry
has appeared in Avenue, The Lilliput Review, The
New Yinzer, The Blue Collar Review, The Deep
Cleveland Junkmail Oracle, The ARTvoice, Modern
Drunkard Magazine, The American Dissident, Words-Myth,
My Favorite Bullet, The Main Street Rag, and Thieves
Jargon. His short fiction has appeared in the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and his column The Lost
Yinzer appears quarterly in The New Yinzer. His
book of poems The Noose Doesn't Get Any Looser
After You Punch Out
is coming out via Six Gallery
Press in 2008.

2008 Underground Voices