Three Poems – Adam Grabowski

Old-Used-Books

 
“And I'll Love You Forever”
		-a bookstore in Western Mass.

You left and took the city with you
went out for cigarettes and became smoke.

And so to stay both more lonely and less lonely 
I went inside the used bookstore to live with 
the broken-spined, the ditched classics, and 
drug money first editions, books who'd burn apart 
if they'd just be held.

Goldenrod and suicidal, a wan line pulls me through
the stacks, has my hands in Leaves of Grass, 1855.

The cover catches my thumb and

2/11/89
    Janice,
    Happy 24th Birthday!  Just want to say
you're a very beautiful person and you are
very special to me.  I hope you enjoy this book.
I love you Janice.
			Frank

Wondering in and out of lives, my hands brushing
over each gleam, matte.  How we sell back.
How we let things go, how we revise and revise.  

What thoughts of you this night, Walt Whitman,
your whole fruit crates full of splinters and dedications, 
where's your beard supposed to point me now? 

Because I'm dog-eared and flower-crushed, laid open.  
And Janice is out there in the amber rim of some cigarette

and she doesn't need her book back.
	


The Vaccine

The needle is unexplained.  I keep kicking
my little legs out towards the ambient walls
desperate to activate anything—some switch, an alarm

so stop, just stop for a second, I can't move
I'm hooked into my father's thick unbreakable
forearms with a blanket of his hot, smokey breath

on my neck he's pleading be brave be brave in a sweat 
over and over and always this inevitable, ringing sharp 
point coming at me second upon inch upon second...

Some years later I still won't be able to tell if my father
was holding me down or holding me still or if there 
was a difference for him and if it mattered,

I didn't know what “brave” was anymore than
I could tell myself why there needed to be this deepening
angry pinch forever in the center of my left arm.

But this morning I will have to hold my own pair of little legs
tight for the needles, there to ensure some incensed pathogens 
will never find her.  And I know she won't recall why but 

she'll recall me, and she'll recall these arms, and I still
don't know how loose, is loose enough to feel brave.
	


Panel Discussion
War and Peace Symposium
New England College, 1999

I asked them when 
	I shouldn't have, still

I asked them because a professor
	thought I should,

and I listened to him because back then
	there had never been a war

for most of us in the auditorium and so
	it was still as novel to think

of one as it was to see a woman 
	at the table lined with other veterans.

“Is there any value, anything positive
	that comes from war?”

I asked and she stood, rose up, actually
	same as the guy who 

a few minutes ago had said he would never
	be able to properly explain 

to his children what it is 
	to have to kill a man 

with his bare hands.  She rose up 
	and asked the crowd, 

without exactly asking, asked us
	to think on how 

she was a nurse gone to Vietnam
	out of adventure, duty, 

out of being young in all the opposite ways 
	other men were there 

to be young and said she knew, before
	she even left, she knew

was positive that she would never
	have children, ever

that she had lost all ability 
	to nurture anything,

lost all of it, like how sometimes
	a limb must be lost,

she said she knew, knew then
	that God must be a man,

that no woman could create such a thing 
	as war and the opposite 

of learning how to nurture. 
	And then she sat down,

alone and surrounded, like how she 
	might have walked in,

though at that moment we realized not one
	of us had noticed how she walked in.
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About Adam Grabowski

Adam Grabowski's work has appeared in The Rattling Wall, Beech St. Review, julibat, Off the Coast, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Voicemail Poems, Black Napkin, Meat for Tea, the Naugatuck River Review, the Wilderness House Literary Review and the DMQ Review. Adam received his MSW from Westfield State University in 2012 and was an organizer and poet with the mighty Northampton Poetry from 2014 to 2017, where he facilitated a bi-monthly workshop. His latest chapbook The Washing Our Hands EP was published in 2015. He lives with his family in Holyoke, MA. He brings pie to a knife fight. www.adamgrabowskipoetry.wordpress.com View all posts by Adam Grabowski

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