Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Lights Out

The twenty-six-year-old third mate was driving the ship
It was his first time in this treacherous channel
and the captain had gone to his cabin.
The second mate suggested that the captain was
an intravenous drug user
but the first mate had told him to shut up
he didn’t know what he was talking about
and shouldn’t feel so free to malign the captain
his superior
The second mate was suspicious of the word “superior”.
It was then that the boat began to list and roll
It didn’t take long
It rolled over like the third mate’s headstrong girlfriend
turning over in bed
She was a white women
nothing like the spare Koreans he
had gotten used to fucking
She had round white buttocks
In fact, he was thinking about her at the moment
the ferry began to roll
how she rolled over in bed and turned on the lamp
She was reading a novel with the name of a Beatle’s song
written by a famous Japanese writer
whose name he could never remember
Every time he tried to think of the man’s name
all he could come up with was Hari Kari
and he knew that wasn’t it.
She was reading the book in Japanese
He himself never read fiction
and did not know Japanese
The boat rolled
The students in their cabins
texted their parents goodbye
apologized for all the misdeeds they had done
or not done
as children
Their bodies whimpered
like the wings of trapped manta rays
There was a jellywash of entombed bodies
in the muddy tide
the water dark and secretive
septic even
There was a moment when nearly three hundred
students’ lives blinked out
like the lights in a barracks
or dormitory
at Lights Out


This woman I’m dating—
she has a beautiful eight-year-old daughter
and I already feel paternal toward her
though her mother and I are
not near the point of considering marriage
and frankly
I’ve told myself that I don’t ever want to marry again
and should guard against
impulses to do so
We’re drinking wine
in a restaurant
nothing too fancy
but nice
and she starts telling me of her plans for her daughter
She wants her to be a child beauty queen
like Jon-Benet Ramsay
She goes on about the details of preparing for pageants
and while doing so
mentions Jon-Benet Ramsay
several times
She does not mention any other child
Perhaps there is no other child beauty queen
that became famous
at least famous enough for me to recognize the name
I comment that I think it’s odd
that she would be using Jon-Benet Ramsay
as a role model
as she was murdered in the basement of her home
possibly by one of her parents
The case is still unsolved
and the mother has died
taking her knowledge with her
My date tells me that parents’ plans for their children
rarely come to fruition
and plotting a trajectory like this
would be more likely to insure
a bright and productive
future for her daughter
than a plan frankly ambitious
but I don’t want to hear any more of this cracked-brain thinking
Women are too crazy for me
That’s why I got divorced
That’s why I swore off marriage
I don’t care if I’ve already started feeling paternal
toward this eight-year-old
Her mother and I are done

The Fourth

I spent July fourth in a McMansion with forty foot ceilings
On the deck I could see a long way to the east
out toward the plains
where there was often bad weather
I keep myself a mile high
where the air is rare around me
and fly balls travel a long way
in Coors Stadium,
to the outfield stands
I don’t drink
I’m not self-righteous about it
but there came a time when I realized
I enjoyed myself more without alcohol
And it wasn’t that I was an alcoholic
or even close
but I’ve always been happy to go against the grain
The party crowd was getting blotto
Loudness, silliness, some maudlin confessions
Two women told me about their rat ex-husbands
I enjoyed watching an L.A. trophy wife
who’d had a lot of work done
Her nose had a perfect little rise
Her boobs were enhanced just short of massive
Her daughter was there too—
she had small boobs, probably what her mother had started with
This trophy wife was an aesthetician—
I had to ask what that was
The answer was: face treatments
She didn’t have to work but she enjoyed it
Her daughter had just finished cosmetology school
In L.A. everything is hair and skin
Outside on the deck
I watched the cattle in the pasture next door
I mooed heartily at the cows
As I said, I wasn’t drunk,
but felt free to act it
The next day I had dinner with my son
and told him about the party
He made a speech
about the emptiness of life in the upper middle class
and referenced Updike’s Rabbit novels
There’d been a lot of gunpowder exploded,
not to kill anyone,
just for fun