After Slipping and Floundering


The premise of this whacked, gashed ankle

and the debacle of blood it's made of my sock

is that my self-improvement project requires it.


Not so, as it isn't so that this is the song

on the car radio I want now. Nor this, nor this.

My five-point private plan of advancement


is fixed: no blood, no working the brake

and accelerator with the left foot since the right's

wrapped tight in a paint-spattered sweatshirt,


no offering my body up to an intern's idea

of skillful stitching. Contingencies allowed

for the pretty widow to kiss me—but not


to go missing for weeks afterward, leaving

only a sentence of her voice inviting me

to speak to her machine. It was this voice


I had on my mind when my mind

was not on the ladder my body was on,

my right foot solidly setting itself


on air—a blunder that had nothing to do

with my to-do list: the few trifling miscues

and cunning recoveries I'll make to effect


an eventual permanent state of elation.

Unstipulated is this stop light I'm stuck at

and this ice delivery truck I'm idling behind,


my fists wringing the wheel, ankle seething,

tongue seething, because it touched her tongue once.

It's not as if I've become a man who could feel


his face go red and wet, then press it hard

into a pillow to make this vanish, all of it—

the burning in the limbs and the bafflement


about a woman whose prettiness and kiss

are provisions I allowed for, but whose behavior

is now inapplicable, is in error.


Places I've Been

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