Poetry by Thomas C. Wheatley
Depression Like a Locomotive
It’s plowing on down the tracks
at 150 miles an hour –
I knew a poet/playwright/conductor, once;
nice guy, always late to meet;
maybe he’s in there, hellbent, disheveled,
his frustrated art turned madness –
strange thing is, though, it’s a steamer,
black-iron and heavy, antique or replica –
it could be an old one;
rails the same, tracks same width,
same as a car, same as a wagon,
same way back to Roman chariots,
but it, the steamer,
steams steady, steadfast, stable,
no vibrations threatening derail;
only smooth, slick, sleek, certain,
conservation of angular momentum,
almost at the end of the line.
She scrubs in little circles
as the powdered bleach cleaner turns blue.
Sweat drips from her forehead,
and from the kitchen sink bits of food loosen,
drops of old milk melt, rust marks fade away.
Her fingers, grown pruney, begin to burn,
and from bathroom tile soap-scum rises,
his wayward piss, dried to the lip
of the bowl, dissolves,
and every stain is negated, undone,
every filthy thing made clean,
by toil and leave-taking made new.
“Fuck you, Kant,” then the flutter of pages
and a slapping thud against the wall.
I’m standing in the doorway,
my hand still on the knob,
Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
split open on the floor.
She rubs her forehead and takes a drag,
pushing the smoke out slowly.
Our eyes meet and she smiles abashed.
She’s sitting on the bed, textbooks frozen in orbit.
She shakes her head.
“People, when you really get down to it, are animals, right?”
and I go to answer her and look her over,
her legs hairless only because she shaves them,
her fleshy tits like bags of meat,
the scent of a budding sweat rash
rising from my armpit, sickly in my nose,
all the muscles and tendons of my groin long dead.
“After Mill I tuned out, baby,”
and I push all of her shit to her side of the bed and lie down,
already falling asleep, still wearing my shoes.
O God give me night,
give me stark street-lamp night,
give me dried sweat and blood night,
give me quick night like vodka,
give me full night like rum,
give me tired pot-smoke night
and give me sleep,
give me dark-blue-like-black sleep,
strong sleep like wine,
slow sleep like cold coffee,
give me warm summer water sleep,
give me thunderclap-echo sleep
and give me dreams,
give me pomegranate-erotic dreams,
vertigo free-fall dreams,
tingly nitrous oxide dreams,
millennial dreams like darkness,
infants' dreams like blindness.
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