John Grochalski

jed and ethel

jed and ethel
sleep on a bench
across the sidewalk from
the big supermarket
they sleep while people
complain about cantaloupes
and the cost of pineapple
jed and ethel
have been living on the streets
in the neighborhood
for about two or three years now
right around the time
we were told the economy
was back and full swing
jed and ethel obviously never got the memo
they sleep on the bench
while people walk by
holding wine bags and gourmet vegan wraps
jed wears a green hat
from a nintendo game character
and a free t-shirt from the new hipster coffee shop
who gave it to him
for their ironic idea of free advertising
ethel wears her winter coat
in all kinds of weather
she’s usually pretty quiet
but sometimes she sits on the bench
and screams at the people
complaining about cantaloupes
and the cost of pineapple
sometimes she says to the people
carrying wine bags and gourmet vegan wraps
hey, but do you have a dollar for me?
jed’s still able to sleep
when ethel goes on like this
he’s put up with way more than shouting
sometimes jed and ethel smoke pot
with another guy, maximillian
they sit at the bus stop a block away from the bench
and get stoned
as people walk by carrying lackluster cantaloupes
and over-priced pineapples
complaining about the smell of the marijuana
and saying to themselves
well, if they have money to do that
then why are they living on the street?
as if getting
the occasional life-numbing high from a third party
is the equivalent of them
somehow shunning the rest of us
here in boot strap america
but people like to say dumb shit like that
because they are afraid of homelessness
they see themselves in jed and ethel’s eyes
deep down
they know it isn’t all cantaloupes and pineapples
and wine bags and gourmet vegan wraps
or maybe they are just judgmental assholes
and jed and ethel
are just props
to boost up their own self-esteem
their own sense of value and self-worth as citizens
road signs to prove that we aren’t all random cogs
in an unforgiving capitalist mouse wheel
to be honest
jed and ethel aren’t even their real names
i have no clue who they are
where they came from
why they chose this neighborhood
if they’re married or just shackled together this way
jed and ethel are just names
that i came up with
about a year ago
when i was walking down the street
on some lazy summer sunday afternoon
swinging my bag from the wine store
passing them sleeping on that bench
on my way to the supermarket
for some fresh fruit
a cold six pack of beer
and one of their kick-ass
gourmet vegan wraps.

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