by Chad Davidson
Mounting the stationary bike, you bear witness
to Sheila in her leotard amid an hour’s worth
of miniature death, her heart rapping on its chamber
door. You’ve traveled beyond the distant water
fountain, the sauna crying its salt on the floor,
have been conveyed nowhere in twenty minutes,
the eighteenth green dangling before you in simulcast.
Warmed up, you scoff at the fat guy in the small car
of a hack-squat machine, load-bearing and ridiculous,
while Christina Aguilera taunts from the far shore
of her pop song, indigenous, bland as a high school
witch club. Would it have been better to split
some logs, build a pyre, sacrifice some self
to the arrival of the great black gym suits ghosting
through midnight on local TV guaranteeing weight
loss without loss? Just think of the iconography,
of the Gatorade with its technicolored flavors,
its promise of the eternal spring and jump shot.
Look, before the Nile, when bodies were not temples
so much as atriums, the small finch of the heart
banged its cage to bear witness. Bruises were small ponds
our histories swam in. Given time, the white raiments
of Renaissance women’s flesh spread down the walls
of museums in which we ran, room to room, breathless
for their leisure. Was there never the remotest chance
of becoming purer, browned and trained by the sun
with its legion of torturers? Must we live in our bodies
and punish them, too? Towel off, Sheila, and grab your keys.
Because late, when the tattoos have hunkered in their sleeves,
and the herds of duffel bags by the coat rack have cleared,
and each straggler recollects the pain the body knows
as good and true (as good as water, as true as water torture),
in the black moons of plates skewered on their pegs
a calmness wells, imperceptible, loving, finally radiant,
as the monitors flat-line and the loudspeaker calls out:
Dear patrons: You are all, like us, dying. The moon that ruptures
each night in the drowsy winters of our windows is not faking.
We will see you tomorrow, or the next day, or the next.
Be mindful that we see you, even through the coastal fog
your body manufactures. And we will help you to the shore.
Chad Davidson is the author of The Last Predicta (2008) and Consolation Miracle (2003), both from Southern Illinois UP, as well as co-author with Gregory Fraser of Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches (Palgrave Macmillan 2009). He is an associate professor of literature and creative writing at the University of West Georgia near Atlanta.