Monday, August 6, 2007


The long ones always end with
some blend of joy and awkwardness.

Petting the foxed receipt that has held your page so
obediently these many weeks of job interviews,
chemo, diapers, mourning, or extended unearned laziness,

you rejoice to find that Huck and Tom are as young
and unalike as you left them, still squabbling over how
best to bust Jim loose. Though you can’t remember

how Jim got caught or which state they’re in or why,
and by now its clear you should probably skim back
a few pages, better yet a few chapters. And as you process

the sighing book back to its slot on the shelf
you feel a little bad for the receipt – all that work
for nothing – though you do take some solace in the fact

that receipts don’t have any feelings, and besides
he looks so much happier there in the recycle bin, lounging
next to a pink soda can atop an orange cereal box.

I’ve never smoked a cigarette, but I imagine the first one
in a long time would feel a bit like cheating
on your promising new girlfriend with that raven-

headed ex whom – let’s be honest – you’re still helplessly
and recklessly in love with. Sure, you’ll regret it,
and if you have any friends that are worth a damn

they’ll shake their heads nice and slowly
as you shrug and suck air through your teeth. But
what can you say? You didn’t like whats-her-face

all that much anyway. All that unwarranted bubbliness.
All those facts. And your friends – they just don’t understand
how good it feels to be someone you haven’t been for a while.

Right now, for instance – sweat-soaked before this perforated
iron locker you haven’t seen in five fat weeks, rubbing
your temples absently while indignant muscles

throw spasmodic tantrums on your legs, chest, stomach,
flanks, and the struggling cords of your neck, lungs
still furious with their torrid heaving, you hmmm

and blink victoriously as a gleaming steel claw
emerges from the stage-smoked cauldron of your mind
clutching a 32, a 2, and another 32, which you’re not entirely

sure about until the black dial catches and the lock tugs open
with its serious click. You welcome the familiar sounds
that follow – the metallic rattling and brief rusty screech

for they herald two goop-filled friends you’d nearly forgotten,
still standing colorful and motionless and patient and proud
with their informative backs to the dented beige wall. Toweled

and yellow-sandled, you marshal them on a slow, pompless parade
that ends at the second shower head from the right, the one
that has never chilled or sputtered as far you can recall.

Having ushered your friends to their scummy tin dish
and the towel, a rental, coarse and faded, to its high
beaded hook, you will twist the knob while taking one big

step to the right, to a safe vantage from which you can
hmph and glare knowingly at this fresh, inviting blast,
withholding your hand until you see some steam.