Four Poems by John Wojtowicz

Wake Up Time

On a Sunday, my little son
shakes me into consciousness, says,
the sky is awake
and the house is awake

and I imagine the house
being awoken by the sky
in the same blustery manner
that I was awoken
this morning

but quickly concede
that the house is probably the culprit
most mornings, urging
and goading the sky, before it is ready —

bedroom, bathroom,
then kitchen lights,
all flickering on before dawn.

*

Fruit Guy

Each morning my son and I pass
an orchard on the way
to his preschool

and this morning, he asks
what type of forest is that?

and I tell him
it’s an orchard, a fruit farm
and he declares:

Farms. Have. Animals.

I tell him some farms have fruit
but again, he insists
that this cannot be true.

And because I know
better, I ask, who grows the fruit
if not the farmer?

And my son responds,
the fruit guy grows the fruit.

And believing I have him cornered
I declare, a fruit guy
is a type of farmer

but my son retorts —
the fruit guy
is a watermelon named Mr. Banana.

I am silent
imagining
a humpty-dumpty-type
watermelon
with an unfortunate surname
waking up
next to his watermelon wife
donning overalls
and straw hat
before heading out into his fields
with basket
and stepladder.

And because this
is a reality worth escaping into —

I let Mr. Banana live.

*

Twenty Years of Education Culminating
in a Good Job

As I sit watching the hours tick
at a good job, a secure job,
a health-benefits-
pension-vacation-time-
sick-day-job, I think
about my pre-school graduation
and how the whole class
was asked to say
what they wanted to be
when they grew up
and how it felt like
there were only so many options
(firefighter, doctor,
farmer, teacher,
athlete, scientist)
and then one girl said
proudly (as the teacher cringed)
that she wanted
to be a dolphin. I think
about her often
and really hope she became one.

*

Father Time Walk’s into Kelly’s Korner at 1:45am

The bartender, Denise, who works Wednesday
nights and Saturday mornings
rings the bell. Shouts, “LAST CALL!”
The bouncer nods, “Made it just in time, sir.”
“I know,” says Father and orders a Guinness.

The manager who looks like Ben Stiller
but still doesn’t laugh the 10th time I tell him
settles my tab out of a pile of crumpled 1’s and 5’s
offers me the ride I always decline.
The regulars all stumbled home hours ago:

The Australian exchange student
obsessed with Arlo Guthrie and gin
who sings City Of New Orleans with me
over pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The Baldwin who picks up college girls,
takes them back to their dorms,
tucks them into bed
after his own daughter disowned him.

The breast-cancer survivor we cheers’d
to two years who’ll be back at 7am
for a Bloody Mary and pork roll sandwich
after third shift at Saint Peter’s.

Time smirks. Toys his beard. Adjusts his Stetson.
Plays Billie-Joe Shaver’s Live Forever
on the jukebox. I ask Denise for another beer.
Father looks over from his stool, foam
coating his mustache, and says, “It’s time, son.”
He gets up, pulls a dart out of thick air,
throws a double bull as he passes the board.
I know he’s right. I slip out the back
and take to the chilly streets— where Time roams wild.

*

John Wojtowicz grew up working on his family’s azalea and rhododendron nursery in the backwoods of what Ginsberg dubbed “nowhere Zen New Jersey.” Currently, he pays the bills as a licensed clinical social worker and adjunct professor. He has been featured on Rowan University’s Writer’s Roundtable on 89.7 WGLS-FM and several of his poems were chosen to be exhibited in Princeton University’s 2021 Unique Minds: Creative Voices art show at the Lewis Center for the Arts. His debut coffee-table-style chapbook Roadside Attractions: a poetic guide to American Oddities was published in 2022. John serves as the Local Lyrics contributor for The Mad Poets Society Blog. He lives with his wife and two children in Upper Deerfield, NJ. Check him out on the web at: www.johnwojtowicz.com