Erica by John Grochalski

might’ve been a looker
in her day
you can still see it a bit in the eyes

but mostly she looks
like the world has kicked her around

she’s got six kids and is just over forty

her ex, dave, is in jail for screwing with a thirteen year old
the last time he got drunk and staggered home

now erica hits on the friends of her fifteen year old son
while he stands there disgusted

or she makes love to her cell phone
while two of her younger ones
beat the shit out of each other
in the cereal aisle of the local food dynasty

when the manager comes over
erica looks up and gives him a smile

shrugs and says sorry
with that cutesy act that hasn’t worked in over a decade

the family has been banned from the movie theater
the comic book shop, the library and the local pet store

there are a couple of bars that erica
isn’t too welcome in
but mostly because of what dave did

rumor has it her oldest is a girl of twenty
but no one ever sees her

at college, is all erica ever says
before shoving her face back in her phone

but all the good and decent folk in this neighborhood
say the girl has a kid and is on drugs

no one knows what erica does for a living
people have suggested everything
from prostitution to winning the lottery

the leading rumor is
that she got a settlement from the city
after one of her kids fell in a public parking
that was covered in broken glass

fred, at the cleaners, says erica
is scheming the government like all that other trash

tim at the bar, wonders what it would’ve been like
to have fucked erica

back in the day, he says, when i had this huge thing for her
not fucking now for christ’s sake

but like really taken her, man
like really gone to town on that bitch
and made her beg and moan

like dave did her in the bathroom that one time
hard enough to break the sink or something

back before all the misery and shit

yeah, but tim says, shaking his head solemnly
rubbing his fat belly for luck

that chick was always too fertile

with my luck i probably would’ve
ended up becoming a dad to one of them goddamned kids

he looks into his beer and shakes his head

and then what the fuck
would i have done with my life?

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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