it isn’t really safe to touch people and i don’t much participate in casual physical contact and there is a dog on the dock just a few boats down from mine and i can still get a little shooting star of oxytocin if i pet this dog as i go trundling by

i lurch and shudder
as i walk. no,
that’s not quite right.
i walk with a gangster
limp, mid-90’s
Chicago in my stuttering
step. no,
this is also inaccurate.

i do move my body,
yes, do move
it along a dock,
lately, currently,
atop current. inhale.
juvenile fish make cute
in their dimpling,
exhale and
oil-sheen’d harbor
water moon walks on out.
i do walk, though
i am not sure exactly
how, i do walk
on floating feet, treading
water on my way up
the ramp, from float to
firmament.

“who’s the dumbshit
that flooded
the bathroom”,
upon stepping
(but how?)
a sandaled foot into restroom,
public. and yes,
the floor is flooded.
and yes,
this sends a wake
of disgust all through
my cartwheeling body.
tip toe to the urinal,
urinate. even here
on dry land,
i tread and trade
water. but what
now, what is this?
this bathroom is flooded,
yes. and the culprit
is a stall’d toilet,
one of two in this
particular harbor bathroom.
this toilet, stopped
up by the tremendous
efforts of an unknown man.
i have labeled him
“dumbshit”,
though i know not
of his triumphs
and traumas.
the guts he totes
around, roiling, from,
what, joy?
excitement?
(excrete! excrete!)
pain? sadness? relentless
wounding and a culture
that does not teach
how to heal?
this is a working harbor,
after all. this harbor
is full of humans who
work. and we all know that
work is toil and toil
is suffering and if it
doesn’t hurt it
isn’t work. money
hurts, too; we cut
ourselves trying to paper
over our tenderness.

the man who plugged
the toilet who flooded
the bathroom who sent slight
tsunami of disgust through
my body who triggered
a tongue to twitch,
“dumbshit”,
this man is a father
and a son and a child
and a spritely spirit.
this man is a racist,
this man is a bigot.
this man saved
a seal that had tangled itself
in the fishing net of a boat
he crewed; the other
deckhands wanted to
shoot it or toss seal bombs
at it but this man,
he’s broad and wide and
wirey and red, he
stopped them,
“no!”,
and saved the seal.
gently. his hands
blunted by labor,
yet still,
gently. this man
ate a big meal;
this man hasn’t eaten
more than candy bars and
pop tarts for weeks;
this man has an ulcer;
this man still feels
the kick of cutting words
from childhood, delivered
by Father or Teacher or
First Love or Faded Friend.
this man still grieves
the small birds he shot,
back in his Great Plains
country road wood house
cantering porch swing past.
this man is not
a man or this man
is me or the toilet
was flooded from a hiccup
in the sewer system
in a different part of this
gravel and wood town.

what do i know,
of plumbing or
of another’s heart?
i do not even know
how i walk,
and I’ve been watching
myself do it for going on
40 years.
i fill my water
bottle in the bathroom
sink, splash some
cold water on my face,
wash the muddy
words from my flooded
mouth, and leave.

Published by Zak

an intertidal island in an ocean of impermanence.

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