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.