By Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
They shiver through my classes. Stuffed uncomfortably into student desks circa 1894, icicles form at the end of their noses. The classroom has a wood stove half the size of a 1967 VW van and piles of wood four feet high, making it appear that I am lecturing in a region of foothills, but I do not light a match.
I inform them that coolness aids concentration. In fact, I’ve written it at the top of the blackboard in capital letters four inches high. The fuckers, they misbehave just to get swats from my wooden paddle, drilled with holes to be aerodynamic, because that’s the only way they can warm up even slightly.
Preparing to deliver the punishment, I swing my paddle like a cricket stick, then let fly. I knew, from an age quite young, that I wanted a career in education. The life of the mind!
Me, I have no children. My wife and I—we’re not breeders. Why multiply? Other than misery loving company.
Misery wears a multi-colored knit hat, the kind favored by rugged Tibetans who haul a piano, a tuba and a glockenspiel to the top of Everest, on their backs. You see, the wealthy are having a jazz party up there, featuring dancing elephants.
I walk through a snow-covered world to Sloane’s for brunch. Snow swirls around me. My favorite waitress, the one with the tattoo of herself naked on her arm, waits on me. We talk about her new piercings. I say: You know, you’re the hippest person I know.
She says: That makes me feel awesome, and goes to get my coffee. I wonder if she’s being sarcastic. Why would she care if a geezer like me thinks she’s hip? I dawdle over my coffee, then head back into the snow. At home, I don’t want to go inside. I get my snow shovel from the garage, and start shoveling my walk, even though I know it will snow the rest of the day. Shoveling, I feel good, and often stop to look around at the white world. I have a stray thought: I’m sixty now. I ought to get a Shingles shot. I hear that Shingles is really painful.
Michigan has two seasons: Winter and Pothole Repair. (That’s our state joke—ho ho!) The bloodied, militarized world has two seasons: Fighting and Winter. In winter the passes are closed, arm shipments immobilized, weapons frozen. Terrorists hunker down in barracks, fill in crossword puzzles with blunt golf pencils, and wish Osama bin Ladn were still in his compound watching American porn.
Overlaps: Winter and Winter. Fighting and Pothole Repair.
No matter what, it will snow, the sun will go away, the bitter wind will blow through our coats and our frailty. Roads will freeze, we’ll slide on black ice into ditches. We’ll fall and break bones.
But we don’t have to repair potholes or fight wars. I say: Let’s not do either. Let’s clunk through potholes. Let’s damage tires, wheels, even axles.
Yoga in Rubble
So I have to ask: the alternate universe, in which we’re not colossal disappointments, where is it?
The answer: it rode the Diphtheria Nebula, slid into the Oppenheimer Black Hole and hid there, rested in perfect silence, before disappearing.
A colossal disappointment: your ears ring with parental echoes, as do mine. My patriarch said: I can read you like a book, and all the pages are blank, his finger in the air as if he were reciting from the Talmud.
Listen: I let mold grow on my organic eggs. I invite quadruplet cats to lick my cheeks with their rough tongues until the chafing mimics my Roseola. I do yoga in the rubble of the necropolis without a mat, all this to show you that Perfection is not possible, and whatever you’re comparing yourself to is a construct with no reality.
Religions of perfection betray us, leave our lungs scarred as if ravaged by pneumonia, leave our blood infected. “God” is the arch-villain in an archaic mythology. “Jesus” is all the sex we’ve denied ourselves.
On a Greek archipelago, the risen Jesus and the goddess Isis have riotous sex, until the feta mountains crumble, and the ouzo and retsina in their abandoned goblets ignite.
About the Author:
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over fifteen-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad, including ADELAIDE MAGAZINE. He has been nominated for numerous prizes, and. was awarded the 2017 Booranga Writers’ Centre (Australia) Prize for Fiction. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and as a print edition. His poetry collection, THE ARREST OF MR. KISSY FACE, will be published by Pski’s Porch Publications in early 2019. He lives in Denver, Colorado, USA.