A man cleans a gymnasium each weeknight in Wisconsin.
It seems to him the size of God’s mind.
He starts with the locker rooms. He sprays the showers with solution.
He tosses loose towels in the institutional hamper.
Tonight every lake in the state is frozen.
The gymnasium’s lit with fluorescent lights, like an operating room.
He pushes his cart on the catwalk about the rubberized floor.
He found a wristwatch there by the pommel horse once.
The parallel bars look even thinner from here.
The man hums a little tune.
He retires downstairs to the break room to trades dirty rages for clean ones.
He practices on a balance beam. It’s a long time until morning.
for Steve Timm
Reading Jack Spicer in corporate offices
on closed-circuit camera in their globes of smoked glass,
I tear into a sandwich and the meat of my mouth
in front of my monitor where I make hypertext jump links.
Double-click here and those words go elsewhere.
Spicer would have liked them, I think, who wrote,
“Nothing can kill/Anybody./Not a poem or a fat penis. Bang,”
around about the time Elvis Presley sang,
“The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang.”
Outside, sod’s been kneeled on by Mexicans.
Maybe some were South American. They looked that underfed.
It’s staggered like bricks. I’m near it, bent over his book
and a cigarette when the sprinklers kick in, then the rain
they imitate, or which? I’ve read in Seattle
pricey doors get equipped, not for consistency.
To keep the poor from them. The sprinklers say, “Double-click.”
On his deathbed, Jack Spicer, lacklove drunkard,
muttered no known language days except, pitifully,
after Red Grooms’ Tattoo Artist
Petite tattooist a-straddle his proportionally
enormous though voluptuous buttocks,
he grins, boyishly, flopped belly-down,
chin in hand, profile presidential, except
he wears what she does: garter belt, stockings,
transvestite stilettos. Hard to say whose legs
shapelier: her stockings purple, garter belt black.
His lingerie, creamy, matches. Their underthings
gleam, and his heels, and the ashtray, whose
contents cannot be legal. The bureau’s askew,
looks ransacked, bra—whose?—dangling,
both cups, from the open top drawer. Lord
knows what in the closed ones, and a big
bottle—bourbon?—through the flung
bottom doors. The tattoo gun must buzz,
and—Matisse?—patterns clash: floral
pillow and spread on the mattress; blobby,
dark curtains; striped wallpaper; checker-
boarded, distant bathroom, toilet and sink
only outline. I love the arch of her left
shoulder, single swooped line of vertebrae,
round belly and breast as she bends
to her work, inscribing a cartoon
dragon on the artist’s back.
Another thing: before dawn, the lava of headlights
wakes me, like a Hawaii documentary program
on your televisions tuned to the public broadcasting
system station. I stand, pants front stained.
shoes from separate matched sets, as if I starred
in some foreign network’s comedy show, The Human
Who Sleeps in Ditches or one of your own Somethingest
Videos. Often I’ve seen someone’s duplicate face
paraded: newsprint the wind spills, windshields,
appliance stores at cities’ edges, their walls
of monitors looking like insects’ many eyes,
but never mine, beside the highway, for anyone to see
Now We Must
Ask the body for a way back,
no matter the hatchet-headed flowers
and galaxies of insects, despite jittering boxcars
and words from those throats,
curses, prayers, in the heralded air,
since we’ve stuck knives in our chest walls
and danced around the little cup,
now that we’ve whispered
a hundred saints’ names
in the black hats and smashed them.
The hands that hold our hearts
some day, not born yet, tremble,
freckled, over undone chests,
yellow with antiseptic.
Could be it’s written inside the skin,
dotted lines escape plans,
which case, what, each day slit
a fresh square inch, photocopy, stitch,
or better, summon each place
the body’s been, strollered past
caged animals, the theater and that man
who touched our necks, room
with a woman tracing the salt
routes of our palms, reading Apocrypha
and Psalms, looking for the dropped dead birds
Jesus touched alighting then hope that’s us?