3 Poems by Mitch Grabois


Leonard Bernstein once said:
“This will be our reply to violence, to make music more intensely,
more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before”

so after I heard about the murder of twenty children
in their classrooms
with their crayons
I descended the splintery stairs to my cellar
and sat behind my kit
and beat on those drums as never before

By the time the other members of my band showed up
the bassist, who works as a bartender
the guitarist, whose girlfriend went back to Arkansas
the keyboardist, who’s a hunchback
and the lead singer, who is dark as a gypsy
I was in a froth

my black t-shirt with the photo of Rasputin soaked with sweat
my arms pumped like a bodybuilder’s
the Mounds of Venus at the base of my thumbs
hard as walnuts

My dog
who I saved from the pound and a history of abuse
and normally likes rock music
cowered behind the water heater
as if the shooter
were in the room
with his assault rifle

I got up to give the dog a lamb treat
and smooth his ears back
and tell him that everything was going to be all right
I figure he’s smart as a three year old human and
trusts me
because I’ve never hurt him
and use rewards to modify his behavior
not punishment

When we walk in the park and pass people
I tell him: Friend… friend
and when he doesn’t lunge and growl
I give him a treat

When we pass black people and Hispanics
and they hear what I’m saying
they give me an appreciative look
and I make eye contact
pleased that my dog no longer sees them as enemies
and that we can live in the world together


Tu was a psychiatrist
Not my shrink, I believed
We were colleagues
I was a professional in
some profession I gave up so long ago
I can’t remember what it was

Tu was famous, though no one knew who she was
She was the little girl running down the road in the Vietnam War
her face an anguished mask
napalm burning her skin

But when people looked at her
all they saw was a little gook
with black-framed glasses
They didn’t know that the napalm was
still in her skin
a blue tint
always threatening to reignite
always itching
sometimes hardly bothersome
sometimes a raging torment
as if it were fresh

I loved her for her sacrifice
and for her unconditional acceptance
of me
and everyone else
She was healing people with her heart
people who didn’t even know it
She was like a superhero
of mental and emotional aberration

I inked secret messages to her
in the rubber
on the sides
of my black and white Keds
and she read them and understood
but pretended she hadn’t even seen

That night, Tu handed me a couple of pills
For your malaria, she said
I’d never had malaria
as far as I could remember
but I took them
as a show of trust

Later we went for a walk in the woods
Suddenly we were in a thunderstorm
in moments drenched to the skin
Lightning flashed around us
and a bolt hit a tree not fifty feet away

We screamed involuntarily
and dropped down into a ditch
in which water was flowing

We lay there and watched the water
reflect the flashes of lightning
and drain into a concrete pipe

The mud was orange ointment and
when I peeled off Tu’s clothing
her molten blue flesh
immersed in the ooze
hissed like serpents

Crawdads scuttled out of the way
propelled by the wake of our transcendence
lightning in the sky like varicose veins

Around us, an entire race of people in black pajamas
banged blocks together
nodding and smiling
deafening us



Motorized Chair

I remember when Bill was working as a cook on a fishing boat
outside Houma, Lousiana
and when he came home to the Florida panhandle after a three-week stint
he brought back fifty pounds of gulf shrimp
and fifty pounds of crawdads

I bought three kegs of beer
drove my pickup into his backyard and dumped them out
and we had a party
pretty near everyone we knew

A bonfire burned
three men whaled on guitars and one on a banjo
women took off their shirts and went topless
We were Southerners unleashed

Bill got so drunk he wheeled around the yard
grabbing onto people to save himself from toppling into the dirt
and laughing
Man, my head is spinning

He was a big smoker
In my mind I see him
a cigarette held between thumb and forefinger
lighting up his face in orange as he inhales

Not long after that party
he was diagnosed with brain cancer
I told you I’d never get lung cancer, he said

Medical care wasn’t what it is today
They put him in a motorized chair
and spun him around at forty miles an hour
How is this supposed to help? I asked his wife
as we stood behind one-way plate glass
and watched him spin

This is how I’ll always remember him, as a blur, said his son
After what seemed a long time
the chair finally slowed
By that time I was nauseous
barely holding my cookies
I put my hand on Bill’s wife’s shoulder

The blur became less blurry
resolved back into Bill
finally came to a stop

Bill looked out into the void
An attendant released his arms and hands from their restraints
Bill reached up—
it took him a few tries to find his eyes
He rubbed them and grinned
Man, my head is spinning


Mitch Grabois

Mitch Grabois was born in the Bronx and now lives in Denver. His poetry and short fiction has appeared in over eighty literary magazines, most recently The Examined Life, Memoir JournalOut of Our, and Turbulence (England). His novel, Two-Headed Dog, published by Xavier Vargas E-ditions, is available for all e-readers for 99 cents through AmazonBarnes and Noble and Smashwords (which also provides downloads to PC’s).


Tagged , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: