Poetry 2011 / Volume 42

At the Gym — James Valvis

Here where people come to get beautiful
there’s no elegance. The forty-and-fat farts
and hopes no one hears. The manicure model
sweats like a trucker filling up in August.
The fey-and-fabulous in the seventies headband
averts his eyes from the wall-length mirror,
frowns down at his shriveled ball bulge.
Even the musclehead, lats like tucked wings,
bare tan chest with pierced dark nipples
that could be drawers with handles,
the kind that would open and be empty,
even he grunts over the weight of the weights,
veins straining as eyes plead for more power.
Dante could not have composed
a better ring of hell for the physically vain,
the pathologically fit. And you—
why are you here? Is it not your mother
sitting in a Florida trailer, five foot two
and 350 pounds? Is it not also your father
smoking four packs a day around oxygen tubes
he wore on his face like a thin blue mustache?
So many canto Dante kept to himself.
What is left now, in the middle
of one’s life, but to grab dumbbells,
so aptly named, and show them all what hell,
what desperate inelegance, looks like.

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