26 Dec 2010

Gas Station Rest Room -- Alan Shapiro

[1952–current, American]

The present tense
is the body’s past tense
here; hence
the ghost sludge of hands
on the now gray strip
of towel hanging limp
from the jammed dispenser;
hence the mirror
squinting through grime
at grime, and the worn-
to-a-sliver of soiled soap
on the soiled sink.
The streaked bowl,
the sticky toilet seat, air
claustral with stink –
all residues and traces
of the ancestral
spirit of body free
of spirit – hence,
behind the station,
at the back end of the store,
hidden away
and dimly lit
this cramped and
solitary carnival
inversion – Paul
becoming Saul
becoming scents
and animal; hence,
over the insides
of the lockless stall
the cave-like
scribblings and glyphs
declaring unto all
who come to it
in time: “heaven
is here at hand
and dark, and hell
is odorless; hell
is bright and clean.”

Source: Shapiro, A 2008, Poetry Magazine (September 2008),

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