When the bass drops on Bill Withers’ Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m. and I confess I’m looking over my shoulder once or twice just to make sure no one in Brooklyn is peeking into my third-floor window to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed for three weeks before I slide from sink to stove in one long groove left foot first then back to the window side with my chin up and both fists clenched like two small sacks of stolen nickels and I can almost hear the silver hit the floor by the dozens when I let loose and sway a little back and just like that I’m a lizard grown two new good legs on a breeze -bent limb. I’m a grown-ass man with a three-day wish and two days to live. And just like that everyone knows my heart’s broke and no one is home. Just like that, I’m water. Just like that, I’m the boat. Just like that, I’m both things in the whole world rocking. Sometimes sadness is just what comes between the dancing. And bam!, my mother’s dead and, bam!, my brother’s children are laughing. Just like—ok, it’s true I can’t pop up from my knees so quick these days and no one ever said I could sing but tell me my body ain’t good enough for this. I’ll count the aches another time, one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back, this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones, I’m missing the six biggest screws to hold this blessed mess together. I’m wind- rattled. The wood’s splitting. The hinges are falling off. When the first bridge ends, just like that, I’m a flung open door.
The new aspirin is a blue-blooded Burberry model With an Oxford classics degree, but my migraine Flares beneath a canopy of melanoma-blurring sun What pains me is the plain human tangle on the L.I.E. And feeling the tricyclics fail me beneath the canopy of melanoma-blurring sun And the long pressed-out El Greco bodies stretched Liked colorless taffy in the studio and At the Night the States Have Ruined Me. Steroid weight gleams off my heart like a chubby Aaron Basha jewelry foot A poem that says "Reinvent the vomitorium!" And At Night the States have ruined me. I can persuade him To be alive and living in hotel rooms is dehumanizing. Inside of this I’m passing out From bravery, dyspepsia, the Boy with an Arab Strap In fluttering tremolo, the way an air of tremor lives in some bordeauxs but Like the Hamptoms rising from the pollutions mist— Something so Anglo-Saxon refusing to die or bonnet its frailty In layers of preservatives. Please somebody peel me dreamlessly aback To inhabit fleshly then brittle climates like a Giacometti fever dream
Copyright © Jeni Olin, 2005. From Blue Collar Holiday. Used with permission of Hanging Loose Press.