Monday, July 22, 2013

22 July 2013

Joseph Millar [T. Charles Erickson]


The toilet was ancient and wouldn’t stop
running even after the stained tank filled,
its metal valves and rusty ball float

oxidized to an undersea green. The new
bowl was elongated, svelte, eighty-five
pounds of gleaming porcelain muscled

up the narrow back stairs, three separate gouges
in the bathroom wall where I’d staggered,
scattering unguents and salves,

soaps made from oatmeal and apricot,
stopped rose water, bits of beach glass,
hairpins, aloe vera and blueing.

One enters this kingdom like a guest
careful to remain in one’s own scant preserve,
razor, toothbrush and ragged towel kept apart

from these occult potions, the jar of chalky
pink fluid for the bowels, foot plasters, corn
and bunion removers, gels and lotions, aspirin bottles,

stockings draped casually over the showerhead like
dark mesh for straining opium, lavender powders,
shark oil suppositories wrapped in crinkly foil.

What hubris to imagine a smooth installation.
I managed to donkey the new commode
straight down onto its wax ring seal,

black sleeve wedged in the drain pipe,
its two-inch trapway one hundred percent
glazed white vitreous china, fastened

in place with solid brass bolts. And I never
felt the small collision against my heel in the
half step I’d taken, backward, to admire my labor,

knocking the tank from its resting place
so it fell over the threshold and broke
with a sound like a glacier calving

off the Siberian coast . . .
I stayed on my knees a long time after that
trying to imagine some supplication

to the gods of water and household calm
which might restore my original vision:
to be seated in silence here at last

lost in thought or meditating on the perfectibility
of man, idly perusing a seed catalogue
or “Tintern Abbey,” or the diagram

of a vagina as it appears on a box of tampons,
all the while basking in gratitude
for the roughage in last night’s salad.

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