Giving Things Away


whenever i come to town
the old man always has these things
that he gives to me

books or old baseball cards he’s been
keeping for years

presidential coins from the u.s. mint
or other sundry collector’s items

he sits in the living room watching me
looking at them
trying to see if the same joy of ownership
turns up on my face
as it most probably did his

but each time i receive one of these gifts
joy is not my first reaction

i worry

i look at my dad and i ask
what gives old man?

are you sick and just not telling me about it?

each and every time he shakes his head
tells me that he’s fine
tells me that he’s just done with the stuff, is all
and he wants me to enjoy it now

he says he does the same thing with my brother

gives him other cards
other books

still, it’s hard for me to feel very happy
having these tokens of my father’s life given to me
soon-to-be scattered around my place

his substance mixing with mine

the idea of someone being done with something
that the years have bred apathy toward
that which was once sought with such vigor

these gifts
appreciated though they are

make me feel old

i look at my old man
watching me looking at the coins and stuff
and wonder how much time we have left together
on this ball of gas

when it’ll be that i’m packing up all of the books
the clothes and everything else

dividing his belongings with my brother

no set plan or pattern
no joy in collecting the material

i’m not even ready to consider that business

my old man became a grandfather this year
and that’s enough aging in my opinion
for all of us

i wish that we could all just slow down
keep acquiring for ourselves
without the thought of our own mortality

because i still feel like that kid

his kid
his first son

half asleep in the backseat of the car
coming home from a family friend’s home
on a sunday night in the summer

with doo-wop playing on the radio
and the infinity of youth in my grasp

i’m not ready to lose that part of me
to give it up to a new generation

as pretty and amazing as my new niece can be
i don’t want my old man to be done with his stuff

to give away these things
to my brother and i so freely

to pass them off between sips of beer
as if they were spent matchsticks
while we’re bullshitting about another
lost baseball season in pittsburgh

i want the old man to hang on to these things
for a little bit longer

to pull the coins and cards
out of wherever it is that he keeps them safe

and just look at them for the afternoon
as good music plays on the stereo

and the years seem like soft green spring leaves
that you can pluck from trees

abundant and everlasting

the kind that’ll stand strong for another season
and again and again
before they turn warm and red
awaiting the cold burst of winter

only to come back even more vibrant the next year.

John Grochalski

John's poetry and prose have appeared in several online and print publications including: Red Fez, Rusty Truck and Outsider Writers Collective, among others. His book of poems, The Noose Doesn't Get Any Looser After You Punch Out, is out via Six Gallery Press. His second book Glass City is out on Low Ghost Press.

Latest posts by John Grochalski (see all)

%d bloggers like this: