By Kate Brubeck
Good Vibrations has nothing on Ashby Plumbing Supplies.
It’s a man’s world in here, from the lengths
of copper tubing suspended in tumescent arcs
to the all-male clientele, hunch-shouldered in dimly lit recesses.
This is a narrative-free zone; the products get straight
to the point: Grrip! commands the label on one shelf,
Real-Tuff, boasts another. You can feel your midriff tauten
as ABS Cement struts his stuff at first sight
of Gel-Gloss. Here’s handy Penetrating Oil, as things heat up,
and Lube-R-Coat in the event of resistance.
Ho—here comes Ridgid! We’ve got plot, folks! And it’s
clear some space for plumber’s Hulk: Expanding Foam.
Grab your Break-Thru Cit Grit (never mind that elusive “l”)
and your Hercules—new improved WHAM
Hand Cleaner, smooth the way with Duck Butter pipe joint lubricant
take a hit of Pro Dope, and you’re in
the home stretch with Finishing Touches and Holdrite Silencer,
the Evolution Pro Series–which enable you
to grind more, hear less.
Maybe that was one the other day, the tiny girl
in the big rubber boots, umbrella canted over her shoulder,
and the plastic coat parted like a cowboy duster
over her cotton-candy princess crinoline. Or maybe I missed
one the morning my aging neighbor Henry stopped by for a shot of tequila
from the bottle he’s installed at my house for just such visits, how he
made another in a series of off-color jokes about the respective colors
of our skins, laughed his raucous schoolboy laugh, and then,
suddenly 85, cast a bewildered look at the ledge above my sink
searching among dish-soap dispenser and scrub brush and cactus planter
for a word he couldn’t find. Maybe there was one in the
spangle of fishes circling endlessly in the corral of light
at the end of the dock ramp, and in their sudden dispersal
as the shadow of a turtle cut through their midst.
But how, the next day,
the tide was out and the fish were gone, and I saw
that the turtle must have been a cormorant.
And there was nothing but a film of filth undulating
on water so low the rim of a Coke can protruded like coral
from the sari-silk palette of oil.
telegram from middle age
got up STOP menstruating STOP 10 days early STOP fuck whoever designed menopause STOP back to bed with book STOP Henry VIII bored with Anne Boleyn STOP fuck Henry VIII STOP checked work email STOP message from student smarter than me STOP tried getting up STOP again STOP to-do list says sort office clean house file papers groceries bills wisteria Craigslist STOP conscience says fuck Tudors and to-do list STOP catch up on Middle East STOP sweetheart says fuck Middle East STOP do something you can control STOP nobody anywhere says what to do about despair STOP STOP STOP swam 13 minutes STOP of 30-minute swim STOP stopped STOP goggles streaming with tears STOP headed to store accompanied by Bach STOP unstoppable tears STOP 50 years old suffocating at work STOP incapable of imagining what else STOP parked car STOP swabbed tears STOP oatmeal chocolate butter STOP home STOP cookies for block party STOP let down blinds in kitchen STOP 7-yr-old boy across street singing so loudly his mother tells him to stop STOP he can’t