Mennonite Poetry Home | Larry Nightingale



At the urinals

Tarnished silvery figure
of a gentleman cowboy style
Panama-hatted fellow
facing forward to wall immediate,
chin up, as if gazing past space-time
through matter, already drifting
'midstream' (so to speak)
ripples across the mirror
as my own inflated brain and bladder
precedes me entering the mezzanine
south wing campus public restroom,
the university—West Coast city centre

with educating abstract glance
(instinct check for any rank danger)
registering the pose—of the reflected
stranger, slight of build, wide stance,
balanced backward tilt,
out-of-towner—Colorado? Calgary?
guest lecturer? (battered great brown
horsehide briefcase
stabled to the side)

just wary of the back-splash
of his secret pint of piss 'n' vinegar?
He's a noticeable full stride back
of our handsome rack
of pink-pucked American Standards

and like me thought-lost, studied, intent,
he's positioned down at the last in the row
of the four sparkling installations
down at the 'little boy's' station
fixtures of porcelain and plumbing
hung six inches and a wiggle
lower on the wall

diminutive and distinguished-looking,
hat now full shading his mystery face,
hand shielding his gentleman bits,
the one hand in place, one on a hip,
he's in system with the myriad little spouts
springing up all round town and country
at any one given men's room moment
at any blessed time and place,

synced in, all male-of-the-species humankind
tinkling, half-mindedly sprinkling
imagined worlds, endlessly undulating
lawns, gardens, golf courses, far and wide,
minds' vacant lots, betwixt their ears,
those unkempt grassy spaces
here, near, and inside,

offering in the profound peace distilled
the specimens of our low reverie,
for that confluence, that mirrored shining,
us to the universal trough, albeit brief,
down along life's zillion stanchions
this one slowed summersault
of the brain's dizzying research and industry
our done-in-under-a-minute base necessity,
with a quick sigh and slow release,
the age old Zen-like zipper down waltz.

Outside that circle
of your own simple bliss
you may have sensed peripheral
there some mere three side-steps removed
someone (the hatted visitor in this case)
is wearing a wrinkled white shirt
and white cotton casuals,
with white snakeskin (glimpsed
men's size small) boots planted gingerly
upon the tiles, down there on the slicks,
in the sticky spill of countless other
poor shots' collateral,

but all this, dear colleagues, dear students,
dear restroom maintenance staff, at all noted
(glanced at, half imagined?) only
because that one split-second view
first rippling the eye, in the mirror, on entry,
shouting loud from
our quietly dapper man's face,
like an ink-blotch blood clot, an error
and correction, an elaborately
scribbled vein darkly scabbed over
after blood's magnetic swirl,
something rendered in rough,
like a butcher's embroidery
a great wrinkled black bloom
stitched in his cheek

he zips up
and in reflex
I half-glance sideways
from my station
as turning to go
our illustrated guest half-wheels
and I full glimpse another (my own)
black-riddled cheek
matching exactly his
in startling bold in my mirrored face,
as this otherwise pale little man
exits, himself full well hidden
between our sinister twin bouquets
and all what our untold stories might tell

just another poor post-op soul anonymous
who'd walked into some accident
of circumstance and consequence full-on,
and, like anyone, simply
has had to put a face on it and carry on,

another old soul
with his mysterious wounds
part of the ever-growing
everlasting universal fraternity,
within the Faculty of Bits and Pieces
at the university, at the urinals.

© Larry Nightingale




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