Stephen Morrow The Old Man & The Bathtub

Life is not short, says an old man
in my kitchen, in a bathtub,
cleaning the dirty years from his silly body.
How many decades, I say,
does it take to screw in a light fog?

But life, he says, is not long either.
Thus life is both short and long:
life is a broken yardstick.

Many fruit flies congregate on the bananas,
which is to say many fruit flies die
on the bananas. Oh, yeah?
says one fruit fly being born and then dying.

Life, he meant to say, is one big banana.

I have meant to travel all over the world,
I say, but still I am in Ohio's bathroom.

I have been to several bananas,
says another fruit fly, dying slowly
but from the looks of it, not painfully,
and I have concluded that—

What, I say, what did you learn?
but he is already dead and buried
and seven other generations
have quietly come and gone.

I have learned very little from nature,
says the old man, or biology,
except that the birds commit terrible crimes
in the name of nourishment. Yes, Yes!
says an earthworm with only two hearts
remaining. Through the open window,
we can see the dogwood tree. It is

clothed one day, says the old man,
and naked the next. Yes, I say,
the dogwood is acting like a teenager
on spring break, and the old man
likes that. He splashes some water
over his tremendous, bloated belly.
He laughs and I laugh with him.

We have watched, I say, the blossoms'
entire life. No one, he says, has ever
bothered to watch a fraction of my life
or one day or just a few short hours
one afternoon from any window. We cry.

This is good, I say. We needed a good cry.

We needed to feel like giant earthworms
with too many hearts to lose.


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