Friday, February 16, 2018


the plague

he doesn’t even realize
that he’s being hit on
by the man on the other side of the bar
he just wants to talk about the neighborhood
the good old days of pizza joints
and the smell of garlic up and down 5th avenue
discos and john travolta daydreams
rambunctious kids breaking open the water plug
playing stickball as neighbors hung out of windows
or beached on lawn chairs on the sidewalk
brooklyn when it was really brooklyn, he says
every single day was a street festival back then
he says, you could pretty much
leave your door open all night and nothing would happen
because everyone knew everyone
nostalgic and magical american delusion
the placid payoff to some for ignoring a history of treachery and lies
the man leans in sipping on prosecco
and says, tell me more
as packs of loud old blonde women come in for lunch
there’s nothing to really tell, the bartender says
the neighborhood has changed
coded language between us colonizers
meaning they’ve moved in
some sinister other with darker skin and darker accents
replacing pizza joints with falafel ones
all you can eat chinese and taco trucks on every corner
store signs in five languages for the uninitiated
new people hustling for the dream
day laborers loitering outside the alpine theater at dawn
hoping someone pays them for the work
it’s just not the same, the bartender says
and you can see his lily little dream
crumbling before his eyes like it has so many times
i think i see what you mean, the man says
finishing off his drink and stepping away from the bar
as if backing away from the plague
he drops a twenty down and leaves without looking back
as the bartender shrugs and drops the cash in the register
before turning back to the pack of old blonde ladies
recovered and rewired
reveling in their familiar cadence and charm
giving those good women his honest to goodness
toothiest of apple pie american grins                

-- John Grochalski                                

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