to a cousin
—a poem by John Grochalski

my only real memory of you
was from when i was five or six

i’d just been to my first pirates game
and you were at the front door the next day
spying those golden bill madlock wristbands
that my old man had bought me

you asked me if you could have one
and without hesitation i gave it

even when sammy kozub’s cousin
flipped you on your back on the pavement
i never thought of taking it back

because you were defending me

and this is the first thing that i thought about
when my old man called and told me
that you were gone at only forty-one years old

suffocating on your own vomit
like some kind of rock star

i hoped whatever it was that took you wasn’t genetic
because most days i love this life too much to leave it
and i’m scared shitless of doctors and hospitals

i thought about violence and baseball and biology
on the day that you died

instead of how you simply weren’t here anymore

but time has been cruel to us both
family, i mean what can you say?

in some lines blood just doesn’t run thicker than water
it trickles from a rusty pipe

and we never really knew each other
because our dads didn’t get along

so i probably have no business trying to eulogize you
especially in something as cheap as a poem
because you could’ve been any face on the street to me

you virtual stranger

but maybe there would’ve been something in the eyes
that would’ve caught us both

some resemblance or the mention of an old baseball hero
kid stuff to spark some kind of reminiscence

but that chance has passed us by, cousin
we’re distant stars burning out

and now we’ll just have to wait for something else

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), the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and the forthcoming collection of poetry, Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street, 2014).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he constantly worries about the high cost of everything.