Friday night I entered a dark corridor
rode to the upper floors with men who filled
the stainless elevator with their smell.
Did you ever make a crystal garden, pour salt
into water, keep pouring until nothing more dissolved?
A landscape will bloom in that saturation.
My daddy’s body shop floats to the surface
like a submarine. Men with nibblers and tin snips
buffing skins, sanding curves under clamp lights.
I grew up curled in the window of a 300 SL
Gullwing, while men glided on their backs
through oily rainbows below me.
They torqued lugnuts, flipped fag ends
into gravel. Our torch song
had one refrain–oh the pain of loving you.
Friday nights they’d line the shop sink, naked
to the waist, scour down with Ajax, spray water
across their necks and up into their armpits.
Babies have been conceived on sweat along–
the buttery scent of a woman’s breast,
the cumin of a man. From the briny odor
of black lunch boxes–cold cuts, pickles,
waxed paper–my girl flesh grows.
From the raunchy fume of strangers.
Credit: Sandra Alcosser,”Sweat” from Except By Nature. Copyright © 1998 by Sandra Alcosser. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.