at the Gym
In my earbuds, set to repeat, Jim Morrison croons
All the children are insane. I turn my Walkman up.
A wash of cymbals, guitar and phase-toned organ
drowns the cappuccino froth of Bon Jovi leaking
from Studio One, where a squad of women
in headbands and legwarmers pumps dumbbells
with Pentecostal fervour. In the dojo next door,
a chorus line in white pyjamas high-kicks the air.
This, the Doors, and the barís rotating fans,
copter me into a hotel room, Saigon, 1969.
Apocalypse Now. Smoke, sweat, brandy fumes,
a spoked wheel of shadow chopping the ceiling . . .
Wake up, soldier. Gulp water. This gym is Energize,
where couch-potato verbs bulk up into imperatives:
jump, punch, scream. The women clap themselves,
file out. A red beltís neck jerks as a fist hits his chin.
The PA bleats Things Can Only Get Better.
The wall-mounted plasma screen offers rubble,
shattered plaster, men with beards and bandoliers
carting a lumpy tarpaulin on a stretcher. The Punjab?
Helmand? Another satrapy rejoins the Great Game.
Morrison spurts his climax, Mother I want to . . .
aaargh you, then the glassy raga that begins
The End glitters in my headphones again.
If you have any comments on this poem, William Stephenson
would be pleased to hear from you.