Eternal Recurrence


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What's a blush?
A flicker of hellfire
felt; seen, like sunburn, but,
fortunately, outgrown
like adolescence.
Still, we're not done
with the flesh's mortifications.
Caught with a thumb
up a nostril, or a hand
down our pants,
we're all galled by ourselves.
There you are now, bent double,
bravely feigning indifference
to the lump in your pants—
or flushed, menopausal
in mid-sentence, while flirting . . .
To endure that ignominy
again and again.

No wormwood, no brimstone—
hell's a black-tie affair
to which you're invited
accidentally, and come
underdressed, undermannered,
nervous, laughing too loud
between gaffes,
and badly timed jokes.
There's a black fleck of spinach
wedged between your front teeth,
which you've only just noticed
in the bathroom upstairs,
looking up to glimpse, there,
in the half-drawn-back glass
of the medicine cabinet mirror,
your host's eyes watching you
lightly fingering his things.

Still, it's not over, yet—
it's eternal, remember?
as in that immeasurably
long instant between
the key rattling home in
the lock as you struggle,
handcuffed by shirt sleeves,
pants down past your knees,
and the half second later when
the door opens and
your mouth makes an O . . . .

Then the reel starts again.