Tag Archives: North Coast Review

Tear Down by John Sierpinski

In this broad shouldered city, in this 50’s vintage motel
arrive to check in at the office, but the cigar chomping
manager has given away our room. A pot of what looks
like tea, but really a poor attempt at coffee sits on a single
burner “hot plate.” Stale-looking donuts wait to be put
out of their misery. Sorry about that, he says with a jerk.
but I’ll tell you what I’m gonna doI can’t wait for this,
I think. For ten bucks more our honeymoon room just
opened up. He winks at my girlfriend. His cigar is
sopped. I grab the key, we are both tired from the road,
tired of this guy. Walk down a few doors past a couple
yelling behind their door. Key in the lock. This “special”
room has mirrors on the ceiling that reflect the filth,
shag carpeting up the walls, stained carpeting on the floor,
a cigarette butt in an ashtray. The word kinky is too kind.
On the floor, next to the bed, there’s a balled up washcloth
Just a minute, I say and head off toward the office.
The cigar-man is talking to a tired-looking older woman.
They both look up. The room isn’t clean (an understatement)
and there’s a used washcloth on the floor. There’s
a moment of silence, then the woman says, They were
only in the room an hour. I’m the one who cleaned the room
after they left. Fatigue has bitten my lip. The woman
hands me a clean washcloth. I turn around and stomp back
to the room. This night is disintegrating into dust. No
wonder the couple two doors down are still shouting, shouting.

John Sierpinski has published poetry in many literary journals such as California Quarterly, North Coast Review and Spectrum Literary Journal to name a few. His work is also in eight anthologies. He is a Pushcart nominee. His poetry collection, “Sucker Hole,” was published in 2018 by Cholla Needles Press.

 

“At Nineteen” by John Sierpinski

On a Monday, July morning, Julian Whittaker
(at nineteen) works high up on a ladder, cleaning
fluorescent light fixtures in the English lecture
hall. He can use the money for the start of the fall
semester. He wipes dust, and then black soot off
the white covers. Mike Kessler cleans, too. He

tells Julian, “I’ve just been released from the county
psych ward, but I’m okay now. I’m studying
Mandarin.” To Julian, Mike appears unbalanced,
the shaky ladder, his exophthalmic eyes, the tick
of his right cheek. Another student, Richard
Longwell, has come to dust. He carries a boom

box the size of a small suitcase. At the sound
of the manic beat, Julian notices that Mike and Richard
dust faster. Then Richard declares, “It’s break time!”
and turns the lights off and the volume up. Distorted
guitars splay, plugged in to simple chords. To Julian,
it is too much. He thinks about how he has lost his

beloved Renee—she has walked away. He feels,
in the words of Pink Floyd, “comfortably numb.”
He drowns another soaped rag, wrings it out by touch
in the dark, and lets the water drip down his pant leg.
He listens to Mike tell Richard, “Turn that damn box
down.” Then Mike says, “You know, I had sex with

one of the other patients.” Richard says, “When I
dropped acid, last night, my entire body glowed. Just
think about it, my veins pumped light.” “Look man,
I don’t want to think about your drug-fueled shit,”
Mike says. And Julian, he doesn’t say anything at all.

John Sierpinski studies poetry at the Vest Conservatory for Writers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has recently published in California Quarterly, Curbside Splendor, North Coast Review, and Indiana Voice Journal. He has been nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize. He has currently completed a collection.