Tuesday, May 4, 2010

poem of the day 05.04.10

john henry

i don’t like
john henry
i wish he’d go back
to the railroads instead
of coming into this bar
the place is always
a pain in the ass
when he comes in here
there’s always some
kind of drama
a fight almost breaks out
whenever john henry shows up

but the guys
love him here
they crowd around john henry
and slap him on the back
some of them hug him
they call him kid
they are happy to see that
john henry is working again
that he has his tools on him
because who is
john henry without
his canvas sack of silver tools

even the bartender
is happy to see john henry
until john wants a beer
the bartender says
man, i can’t do it
you know the rules
besides this is the only
gig that i have

john henry grunts
someone gives him
half of their beer
when the bartender
isn’t looking
john henry seems
satisfied with this
he puts his sack of tools down
right on the stool
where my wife was sitting
before she had
to get up to take a piss

when my wife comes back
she sees that john henry is in the bar
she tells me not to worry about it
but that’s bullshit
i move john henry’s tools
to another seat
i take john henry’s fabled sack
and i set it on an empty stool
i’m drunk enough to think
that i’ll just reason with him
i must have a death wish

my wife gets up
to piss again
about the time
john henry wants to leave
he comes over to her seat
and begins digging through her things
while all of the guys are
slapping him on the back
and hugging him
telling him go get ‘em, kid
i tell john henry that i moved
his sack of tools
i hold up his bag
and say, here they are

john henry doesn’t
recognize his own things
he thinks the tools are
something else
he doesn’t know why
i’m talking to him
he says
what are you talking to me for?
i tell him again
your tools, man, i say
i moved your tools
because you put them on my
wife’s stool
the place gets quiet
guy stop slapping
john henry on the back
they quit giving him
encouragement
it’s just him and me
in that moment
and a mountain of misunderstanding
building up between us

i see my beer on the bar
it’s half drunk
the pint is thick glass
i figure the only shot that i have
is to grab the glass
and get john henry
across his face with it
i can feel everyone watching
my wife is back and watching too
she has that look that says
i shouldn’t have moved
john henry’s sack
i want to tell her it’ll be all right
but dead men can’t talk

in that moment
john henry takes his sack from me
he hoists it on his steel shoulders
and he smiles
he shakes my hand
and the joint breathes
a collective sigh of relief
john henry says goodbye to us all
then goes back out into
the purple brooklyn night
searching for work
and the secret to life
as the bartender
hurries everyone a new round
while one of the boys
queues up a dead song on
the jukebox

...and that, my friends
is how a legend is born.

2 comments:

Bukowski's Basement said...

Every watering hole seems to have a John Henry, huh...

John Grochalski said...

true...this guy is nuts. i dont even understand why he comes in. the bartender can't serve him anymore. the joint is shaky anyway. it took my wife and i two years before they kept giving us dirty looks when we walked in there...now we get invited to bbqs.