Tuesday, October 6, 2020

card shop carl by John Grochalski

card shop carl

is excited to see me

whenever i come in the card shop door

i used to be suspicious of carl

but have since learned to live 

with his exuberance and adulation

card shop carl is

tattooed and scrawny and haggard

he’s been to rehab a few times

and looks like he’s endured some other tough shit

he brings up his years in the military a lot

carl was stationed in berlin in the 80’s

so berlin is touchstone for him

everything that ever happened 

that was any good in carl’s life

happened in berlin

the booze

the women

tripping on LSD in kreutzberg

driving 160 km on the autobahn 

while fucked up on pills

card shop carl’s bucket list

is to get back to berlin

he likes to talk about rock and roll

and the writing of the beat generation

carl goes through all of the dead shows he’s seen

while i look through baseball cards

tells me, you should’ve seen jerry, man

card shop carl talks so much

sometimes i lose track 

of the cards i’m going through

or the money that i’m going to spend

once i ended up spending fifty bucks

most of my paycheck goes to the card shop

the other half goes to the liquor store

so i have to maintain a financial balance

card shop carl is off the sauce

we don’t talk about the booze

unless the drinking happened

somewhere cool in berlin

card shop carl laughs and says to me,

what are we doin’ man?

and i don’t know how to answer

he’s fifty-five and works in a baseball card shop

i’m forty-six and still buy baseball cards 

to the untrained eye

we’re either men of grand delusions

or men of immaculate leisure 

in reality

we’re men whose best years

are starting to get left behind

so i let carl talk

as i sift through cards

try and get out of the store

without spending another fifty

pretend to be fulfilled 

by my conspicuous consumption

like carl is his berlin memories

and the wonderful silence 

of momentary anonymity

as i head toward my other friends

at the local liquor store.

John Grochalski is the author of the poetry collections, 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 Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha Press, 2018). He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where the garbage can smell like roses if you wish on it hard enough.

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