Air Guitar by John Grochalski

in kindergarten
we used to play air guitar
and mouth the words to beatles songs
playing on a record player
that the nun let us share during breaks
she’d round up all of the kids to watch us
i’d be john and chris was paul and danny was ringo
and george was…well…george
when he didn’t want to go off and take a nap
even at five or six years old
with all of those adoring female eyes on me
i knew that being a rock star was the life
and any chance i got i had some classmates or neighborhood kids
strumming air guitar to the fab four in front of whoever we could get
amazingly my parents never caught on and bought me a guitar
for christmas or my birthday
scrounged up what little money we had and said, here you go, kid
like all of the famous boy meets guitar stories
that loomed large in the legend of the other rock gods
or maybe they thought i’d grow out of it
take up baseball and football like the other kids
or maybe they knew before i did
that i much preferred stuffing my face with food
and watching tv
more than i liked guitars or baseball…or anything really
you couldn’t be a rock god and be fat
…of course i hadn’t heard of meatloaf yet
by high school i was a lost cause
obese and morose i stayed in my room most of the time
and didn’t strum along to anything
unless it came with a barbecue or cheese dipping sauce
i took drum lessons but quit
because the drum teacher played gigs the night before my lessons
and always fell asleep while i played
but my friend mike had an extra guitar
and once i lost some weight we were going to start a band
he restrung it for me and taught me the opening riff of day tripper
which…to be honest…twenty five years later
is as far as i ever got
and, really, when i lost the weight i much preferred chasing girls
forgetting that whole rock star/women aesthetic from the kindergarten days
some evenings now on the bus ride home from the job
listening to springsteen or neil young or ryan adams
or even the good old beatles
i sometimes wonder what would’ve happened
had i been given that magical guitar as a child
had the drum teacher stayed awake
and not written off my fragile ambition to his own slumber
or if i ever progressed beyond those opening chords
if i hadn’t dulled myself
by taking up poetry instead
would i have had the big rock star life
the generation changing songs, the awards, the big house,
the psychedelic colored car, the hordes of fans,
forty-three and washed up but with a supermodel girlfriend
half my age and stacks of cash to help ease the aging
or…christ…would i be an old man still trying to make it
playing gigs on the weekend with people i’d known forever
acting like we were anything but middle aged men playing at our youth?
maybe it’s best that things worked out
the way that they did
with the way i drink i’d probably be dead from rock star excess by now
or bankrupt from mismanaging my finances
in debt to some twenty-five year old who says that the kid is mine
doing tour after tour to stave off bankruptcy
no, being a half-assed poet and mediocre novelist has its own merits
i don’t have any calluses on my fingers…that’s for sure
and no one bothers me in the produce aisle at the food dynasty
when i come home people aren’t lined up outside the apartment
for my autograph
they’re just out there to blow cigarette smoke into my window
i’m not too important to wash dishes or take down the trash
and when i really want to
i can do a pretty mean john lennon accent
and i can still play air guitar with the best of them
i play it like a foaming wolf with a big, red hard-on
waiting on the howling moon
to show its golden face
in the big, black star-studded sky.

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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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