Posted by on January 7, 2017

Poems by Mitch Grabois

Written by Mitchell Grabois

Illustrated by Polly Lin

June 4, 2016


I Just Need One

Good mechanics are a million to one

like good men


Why tell me I need an entire instrument cluster

when all I need is a thermostat?

Why tell me I’m too crazy for you

when all I am is eccentric?


Go, go away!

Depart from my hot asphalt drive!

Take your old Studebaker

and toss gravel behind thee!


Why put me up on a pedestal

when all I need is a shade tree?

Why treat me like a moron

when all I want

is to feel your wrench between my legs?


I’m trying to keep 260,000 miles on the road–

why not fix things right the first time around?

Why dance a dance of dumbness

instead of a simple waltz?


Why not just keep your teeth ratcheted

and your serpentine belt buckled?


Bald tires

worn out Airwalks

I’m done


When my mother-in-law died

my wife was in Michigan

trying to sell the schoolhouse

we once enjoyed as a summer place


but which was ruined

by a “wind farm”

which crowded us

and gave us turbine symptoms

headaches, insomnia

ringing in the ears


We got little sympathy for that

People don’t want to hear about anything that

conflicts with their opinions

such as progress being good

or green energy an unconditional blessing for the planet


These thoughts (and others)

were in my mind when my mother-in-law died

and my wife was away

trying to rid ourselves of

our 1894 schoolhouse

which was once such a source

of pride and pleasure


So when the nursing home called

I was the only one here

to take the call

It was Leilani, the RN

who has a Hawaiian name

but is not Hawaiian

having grown up on a ranch in rural northeastern Colorado

where the people want to secede from the state

and start their own


Leilani gave me the news

I said I’d come right over


Highway 25 is often congested

even outside of rush hour

but traffic was light


I felt I should see the old lady

before I called my wife

as if I needed to confirm it was true

with my own eyes


Her mother was almost 96

and I had begun to wonder if she would live forever

They say: No one lives forever

but that’s only because no one has lived forever

No one thought a human could run a sub-four-minute mile

until Roger Bannister did it


At the nursing home, I parked my Honda

between two classics

a Studebaker

and a Chevy pick-up

I wasn’t sure about the Studie

but I knew the Chevy was a ’55


Inside I greeted Leilani

She offered condolences

and asked where my wife was

then left me in the room

with my mother-in-law

and shut the door behind her


My mother-in-law didn’t look any different

than she had all those times we’d visited

and entered her room

to find her sleeping


But there was one difference–

some hairs protruded from her left nostril

I’d never noticed before


When I bent over her and looked more closely

I saw that those few hairs were

attached to a sort of thatch of hair

inside her nostril


It looked weird


like lint

and I thought it should be removed

before my sons came to view their

dead grandma


I gave the hairs a gentle pull

and the thatch followed

which activated my obsessive-compulsiveness

which Zoloft minimizes

but does not entirely suppress


I pulled on the thatch

and it came out further

There was another inch of it


That was followed by a thick strand

of something that looked like gold


This is unprecedented, I thought

I bent over and put my diamond pinkie ring

the one I’d inherited from my grandfather

next to this strand

The material

looked identical to the ring


I could not comprehend what this was

how this was happening

I looked out the window for a moment

and saw the sun glinting off  the windshield

of the Chevy pick-up


I pulled on the strand

and more of it came out

I didn’t worry about hurting her because

she was dead

Leilani had confirmed it

and I was sure Leilani had not made a mistake


My mother-in-law’s spirit

had been peaceful and happy

to the end


Maybe this gold…

maybe this gold what?

I didn’t have an end to the sentence


I kept pulling

I pulled out about a yard of the golden strand

then it abruptly ended

The end of it was perfectly clean

no sign of blood

or other fluids or tissue


I made a tight coil of it

and put it in the pocket of my jeans


Then I called my wife

She didn’t give me a chance to speak

I sold the schoolhouse, she said

I just signed the papers


I have some bad news, I said

Five Poems by Mitchell Grabois & Polly Lin


Lana ponders

if she wants the freaky cat suit

or the sequined glam dress


The cat is as degenerate

as the gothic rabbits

I saved from the burning mountains

Til Death Do Us Part

I break dishes

impersonating my deceased father-in-law,

nonverbal Sicilian language

my wife understands


I wash each plate

before I

dash it to the floor


My wife answers by

flinging cowbells at me


Her father had a big herd

Now all that’s left are the bells

once bathed in bovine peace

now deadly weapons


Luckily she throws like a girl

and I’m nimble for my age


Frustrated, she gets behind the pump organ

that once sat in the village church

and was played by the pastor’s spinster sister

She pushes

with manic strength,

tries to crush me against the wall

kill me with the power of potential music


Vox Celeste


she pulls out all the stops


To thwart her

I jump on top of the organ

cross my legs

light a cigarette

blow smoke rings

skillfully impersonate Marlene Dietrich

Falling in love again, never wanted to…


This enrages her even more

She screams Sicilian curses


Eventually, she tires

regains her right mind


I get the barn broom

and sweep up ceramic shards

dump them behind the chives

in our kitchen garden

Peace has been restored


I go out and check the laundry

strung on a line between two pine trees

It is wet

but will probably be dry

by tomorrow evening


We’ll replace our sweaty duds

with fresh ones


and if she’s lost her mind again

I’ll gird myself

for the next round of

Til Death Do Us Part


My parents died when I was still a child

so I’ve lived with the awareness of death’s imminence


I passed on college

to the chagrin of my foster parents

both professors

because I could not see spending years in stuffy buildings

cramming my head with knowledge

that would decay

as soon as my blood stopped pumping


I joined the Merchant Marine instead

worked hard

attended to the operation of my body

felt my muscles slide and contract

spent long hours staring at the sea


In ports

sexual liaisons with the rawest women

but not prostitutes

because prostitutes have lost their edge

and do not crave men

to save them