“Jackson Pollack’s Strokes” and “60” by Mitchell Grabois


At midnight, Jackson Pollack went to my mother’s gated community in Boca Raton, Florida and dripped paint on her driveway and on the driveways of many other residents. At dawn, when the old Jewish ladies went to the curb to retrieve their garbage cans, they witnessed what had been done. Dozens died instantly from heart attacks and strokes.


Nanci’s back on chemo, trying to keep the tumor down so she can attend her only daughter’s wedding. By force of will, Nanci’s already a month past the two weeks her doctor “gave her.” The days go by like a mountain of sand pushed by a bulldozer in a beach replenishment project.


The black men stink of pesticide. They’ve been on a Southern road gang. This is, after all, the Deep South, how deep you can never even guess. The ghosts of the brutal past animate the present as the ghosts of our brutal present animate the future. The black men have been chopping brush, spraying poison. The blacker they are the more poison they absorb. The blackest die first.

The roadway is not asphalt, but the bodies of Doberman Pinschers laid side by side, their dead bodies recruited from junk yards from Mobile to Apalachicola, Galveston to Jax. The highway is the bodies of Dobermans, and the bodies of black men with huge blue muscles, reeking of pesticide. Sometimes all the Dobermans come back to life. They spring at the black men’s throats. They engage in pitched battles, apes versus wolves, as it was back in the day. Do you see why I have so much trouble traveling with all this roiling around me? I tremble to get on a bus with the image of a stretched Doberman on its side.

I climb into the belly of the beast and commingle with blue toilet disinfectant and xombies travelling en masse to the next xombie jamboree. Please, mister, give me a ride in your white Cadillac, with fins like an angel’s wings. My race is nearly run, and I prefer to fly in the clouds with your drunken hand between my legs, and your clothes dirty and rough.




I want to take a roots tour with my friend Abbas. An Armenian, his name means cruel, dreadful, pugnacious, and many people see him that way. They never experience his soft center. It is like some kind of candy. But he keeps shutting me down. The women in Armenia are dark and hairy like spiders, he says, and I’m afraid of spiders.

I’ve seen some beautiful Armenian women, I argue. Your sister is a beautiful woman.

My name is Vlad, which is also off-putting. It conjures Vlad the Impaler, but Vlad is not an uncommon name in Moldova. Abbas says that they’re so poor in Moldova that they cut out their own organs and sell them.

After he left his wife, Abbas hooked up with a biker babe. She gets on top and does all the work, he tells me. He doesn’t want to mess up a good thing, going halfway around the world to consort with spiders and vampires. He hurts my feelings when he uses the word “vampires.” In the morning we go back to work in the popcorn factory and talk about other things.


This is a dove, I think. I’ve never been good at bird identification. That’s funny, now that I’ve been laid off from the popcorn factory, and my new job is picking up dead birds killed by the windmills’ spinning blades. There are 60 windmills in this “wind farm,” lots of dead birds.

I think I might get a book. I mean, I can tell an eagle from a sparrow, but is that really a sparrow lying there with his neck broke, or a wren? It would be respectful to the dead to know.

I never studied much in school, and I left after the eighth grade. It was too hard for my dad to get me to town, to the high school. I was happy to be on the farm, but in the end I couldn’t keep farming, not enough land, not enough money for new equipment. There’s only so much repair you can do until you’re done. Everything literally falls apart. That’s how I ended up with a job at the popcorn factory. That’s how I ended up with a job like this, collecting dead birds. Abbas still works in the popcorn factory. The boss is Armenian.

I don’t need much money. The farmhouse and land was paid off long ago. I have a well, so my utilities are minimal. I don’t leave the lights on. My mom taught me that. I don’t have a wife, no car payment. I fix my own truck, no problem. ’55 Chevy’s are easy, no computers or nothing, and I have spare parts in the barn.

I like this job because no one bothers me. I drive my pick-up around the township. Even as a kid I liked the how the township looks in different seasons, and I like the cold. The colder the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Birds are pretty in death, unlike humans who are just spooky and grey. Keep that casket closed, Jack! I once stood at a casket and studied my uncle Kep, studied him the way I’d never studied in school. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, my favorite uncle, always telling lame jokes. Afterward I felt sick for a week, lost about ten pounds, couldn’t keep a thing down. But Audubon discovered long ago that dead birds are pretty. He killed a lot of them to make paintings. I have a few of them on my walls I got in a yard sale. I had them on my walls even before I got this job. Funny, isn’t it, how we prepare ourselves for our fates without even knowing it?