Friday night I entered a dark corridor rode to the upper floors with men who filled the stainless elevator with their smell. Did you ever make a crystal garden, pour salt into water, keep pouring until nothing more dissolved? A landscape will bloom in that saturation. My daddy's body shop floats to the surface like a submarine. Men with nibblers and tin snips buffing skins, sanding curves under clamp lights. I grew up curled in the window of a 300 SL Gullwing, while men glided on their backs through oily rainbows below me. They torqued lugnuts, flipped fag ends into gravel. Our torch song had one refrain--oh the pain of loving you. Friday nights they'd line the shop sink, naked to the waist, scour down with Ajax, spray water across their necks and up into their armpits. Babies have been conceived on sweat alone-- the buttery scent of a woman's breast, the cumin of a man. From the briny odor of black lunch boxes--cold cuts, pickles, waxed paper--my girl flesh grows. From the raunchy fume of strangers.
From Except By Nature published by Graywolf Press, 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Sandra Alcosser. All rights reserved. Used with permission.