Wednesday, July 4, 2018


the old man at the corner

the old man at the corner
hates this red light

it’s imperiling his freedom

his car is almost a block long
it’s sucking out black smoke
while he’s sucking gray smoke out of cigar

he’s blasting the star-spangled banner
the way teenagers blast rap

but he has an indignant look on his face
instead of the smirk of life-long privilege
that his type usually wears around on patriotic holidays

maybe it’s the rain and the wind
maybe it’s the mexicans outside the grocery
laughing and speaking spanish as they haul
more corn and watermelon from a graffiti-covered truck

whatever it is that’s bothering him
it’s making me feel sad and cautious

old white men idling at corners
shouldn’t look so down on the fourth of july

it’s like seeing a sad kid at christmas

christ, if old white men can’t enjoy the day
what hope do the rest of us have here?

i watch him waiting for the light to turn
glaring up at that neon and red communist ball of light
as the star-spangled banner reaches its crescendo

i think maybe i should skip the booze store
run across the street and try my best to cheer him up

together we could recite the declaration of independence
reminisce about the good old days
tell our best reagan story

but suddenly the streetlight
turns that familiar sea foam green

and the old man at the corner is gone with a horn blast

the opening bars of oh, beautiful
coming out of his big hunk of detroit wonder

as the sky breaks
and the sun trickles along the pavement

as if saying
there’s still hope for america

--John Grochalski


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