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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