“. . . something difficult lifted, pressed or curled, Power over beauty . . . “

the light left turned on all night across the parking lot below on the wall around the swimming pool is supposed to have a partner but it burned out last week and they didn’t replace it. . . .

Two lights

Two lights

I know because I look out the window many nights some time between midnight and four-thirty or five when I get up because I am awake and get up not to pee like most old men but to take an Ambien. it’s not every night and I am not addicted so don’t worry about that and I’m hardly addicted to anything anymore. maybe sugar cookies the unhealthiest kind at Kroger or Albertson’s which has now bought Safeway and my grandmother used to take us with her going to “the” Kroger down on “The” Avenue (Minnesota) in Kansas City and when we were growing up almost everything we ate that mom didn’t grow came from Safeway. but I can avoid buying one of those plastic trays-with-the-fold-up-top with eight Kroger sugar cookies except about once every couple of weeks when I just have to have one and eat them all in one day to get them out of the house

but sometime yesterday when I wasn’t at home Blaine replaced the burned-out bulb in the parking lot and it’s on now at four-fifteen and I’m up because I woke up and can’t go back to sleep which is what often happens. it’s too late to take an Ambien because then I’d sleep too long instead of not long enough and I wonder what the staff people will do who –I hate to say it because it sounds elitist or bigoted or self-centered in the extreme but we all know it’s true –will be taking care of me when I am in the assisted living or medical unit in the run-down geriatric public housing facility who don’t have enough education to get my jokes –see I said it would sound elitist—and have no clue how to relate to an old faggot. they will probably try to get me to accept Jesus as my personal savior and get over being gay before it’s too late and I can go to heaven. and they certainly won’t let me have my computer because when I wake up at four in the morning and need to write they will think I need to pee and when I can’t because I don’t need to they’ll assume I’ve got one of those old man conditions and need a catheter. all I need is my computer which they have taken away because the people who have my medical power of attorney are in California or some other god-forsaken place and the care givers here in the public run-down old folks’ home in Dallas would never think of asking them what I might really need a computer or a catheter

no it’s going to be grim since I don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars salted away to take care of me in my old age not that I’m not already old. seventy which I’m just ten months from being and I know I talk about it too much but only because I have to get used to the idea. it sort of crept up on me unawares and I don’t know what to do about it but I don’t suppose anyone does. I certainly didn’t plan for the three hundred and fifty thousand dollars the retirement gurus say an old queen needs in the bank to pay medical expenses in his old age so the pittance I have will be gone in about a week if I get really sick sometime instead of just needing hip or shoulder repair. I don’t know what they do with poverty-struck old gay used-to-be-college-teachers who don’t have enough money salted away

At 4:30 this may be what I see

At 4:30 this may be what I see

so when Joanie was in my face purring thirty seconds after I woke up—she sits at the foot of my bed waiting for my breathing to change and then charges she doesn’t wake me up but she knows the minute I am awake—after I checked the parking lot lights I was immediately thinking about the problem of getting enough exercise when I am snowed under with papers to grade and knowing that if I don’t keep exercising regularly and quit eating sugar cookies even once every two weeks and lose the fifteen pounds I’ve been trying to lose since I lost the fifty pounds two years ago I will be unhealthy enough to end up in that assisted living or medical care facility that everyone else’s taxes are paying for. I better not be in Texas when it happens because the fucking republicans have managed to make this the worst state in the union to be taken care of whether you are a helpless child or a helpless old faggot and Mark Doty explained what we need to do better than I can and I read his poem and think that’s it and I need to contact my trainer that I haven’t seen since my shoulder repair surgery and get back to the gym

. . .  where men
lay down their heads,
back to the bench,

and hoist nothing
that need be lifted
but some burden they’ve chosen
this time: more reps,

more weight, the upward shove
of it leaving, collectively,
this sign of where we’ve been:
shroud-stain, negative

flashed onto the vinyl
where we push something
unyielding skyward,
gaining some power

at least over flesh . . .

Though there's something more tender, beneath our vanity

Though there’s something more
tender, beneath our vanity

I need to gain power at least over my flesh so when they want to give me a catheter instead of a computer I will have the physical strength to resist and then they’ll call in the men in the white coats and they’ll be “coming to take me away to the funny farm” and getting power over my flesh right now. I’m sorry Mark it has nothing to do with the “will to become [an object] of desire” it is only self-protection and self- preservation and anyone who doesn’t understand this isn’t seventy years old and alone in the world and a dirty old gay boy faggot queen which is what the less-than-well-educated care-givers will think of me regardless of the new same-sex marriage laws

.
This salt-stain spot
marks the place
where
men lay down their heads,
back to the bench,

and hoist nothing
that need be lifted
but some burden they’ve chosen
this time: more reps,

more weight, the upward shove
of it leaving, collectively,
this sign of where we’ve been:
shroud-stain, negative

flashed onto the vinyl
where we push something
unyielding skyward,
gaining some power

at least over flesh,
which goads with desire,
and terrifies with frailty.
Who could say who’s

added his heat to the nimbus
of our intent, here where
we make ourselves:
something difficult

lifted, pressed or curled,
Power over beauty,
power over power!
Though there’s something more

tender, beneath our vanity,
our will to become objects
of desire: we sweat the mark
of our presence onto the cloth.

Here is some halo
the living made together

—Doty, Mark. “At the Gym.” Source. New York: HarperCollins. 2002.
Mark Doty has won the Lambda Literary Award for his collection Atlantis (1995), and the National Book Critics Circle Award and Britain’s T. S. Eliot Prize for other collections. He has taught at the University of Houston and is currently Distinguished Writer at Rutgers University.

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