Saturday Matinee At The American Ballet Theatre by John Grochalski

and there is sunshine
and a light breeze
coming down broadway
as my wife and i drink water on a bench
and watch the people around us
greedily consume some abomination known as brunch
one would call this a nice day
if one were so inclined
looking across the street at lincoln center
there is something going on
an opera
or a saturday matinee at the american ballet theater
hundreds of kids are playing with a fountain
that rises and falls with the rapidity of some regimes
well-dressed little girls (mostly)
and some well-dressed boys
are crossing the street with their parents
to join in the fun
american flags are waving high and bold in the sky
like they do on every block
and the friendly neighborhood police officers
are there too!
four S.U.V. tanks of them lining broadway
taking up a lane and blocking traffic
oh, how the car horns of angry drivers
mixes so well with the smell of bacon and mimosas
the police are in full riot gear
helmets and bulletproof vests
NYPD plastered on their backs
so as to not confuse them with the army or the national guard
because it’s so hard not to these days
almost all of our heroes are carrying automatic weapons
assault rifles to go with some tchaikovsky and verdi
who knew an opera or a ballet could be so dangerous?
i never knew the cops could be so cultured!
i suppose this is the sort of thing
that makes people feel safe these days
safe to drink mimosas and eat runny eggs in outdoor cafes
safe to take the kids to see swan lake
safe to drink a bottle of water
while killing an hour or two people watching
still it’s hard to sit there
watching the little kids in pants and sundresses
mingling with the masters of urban warfare
and not wonder what we’ve sacrificed
for these freedoms that we’ve been given
what’s the true cost of brunch in lincoln center these days?
or in getting in a little art before noon
what’s the true cost of that sick feeling
the one sitting in the pit of our stomachs each morning
as we rise from our beds to face this america
believing that freedom is still more than a word
bandied about by politicians in the heat of battle
hoping that empty platitudes
belong to someone and somewhere else
and that the smiling cops in riot gear
don’t turn around one day
during an intermission
and point those friendly fully automatic peace keepers
right at you.

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John Grochalski is the author of 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), the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and the forthcoming novel, The Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the section that doesn’t have the bike sharing program.
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