My ex-husband Darren is a strength and conditioning coach. I had an ambivalent relationship with his work, and his work was eventually indirectly responsible for ending our relationship, so I must have been on to something, especially with this poem. I didn’t do it intentionally — and didn’t realize it until the last draft — but the poem mingles our worlds of poems and various things gymnasium.
And the title? All seven do put in at least passing appearances.
I’m past the age for such thoughts
By fifteen years or more, half a lifetime
To the flawless ones, the nubile ones.
My glances are harmless as a baby’s,
Or as grandma’s — at worst, jealous
Of the beauty spread before me.
It’s the self-absorbed idiocy of the young.
I am watching, but not them.
They can have each other all day long —
The young in one another’s arms
Like in some dead old guy’s poem.
I’ll take you all night instead —
Gray roots, thighs like columns, crow’s feet,
Easy knowingness. That’s the country for us.
Would they be flabbergasted that what I feel
For them is a surge of compassion?
Once I was like them — as ignorant, if far
From as pretty — and the man reading the
Nightly news was the Ancient Mariner,
Not a former underwear model
Destined to be driven from his chair
By obsolescence at age 35.
I passed that ten years and more ago,
Bolted by it and into your arms,
The strongest ones in the room, the ones
That are making a dozen gentle adjustments,
To a position here, to a grip on a pulldown bar
Over there, sharing what they know by
Muscle memory and counterforce, as I
Lounge against a stack of floor mats
And imagine your hands all over me,
Everywhere, until my skin screams for mercy
Like a broken welterweight — no mas, no mas.