Gas Station Rest Room

The present tense   
is the body’s past tense   
here; hence   
the ghost sludge of hands   
on the now gray strip
of towel hanging limp
from the jammed dispenser;
hence the mirror   
squinting through grime   
at grime, and the worn-
to-a-sliver of soiled soap   
on the soiled sink.
The streaked bowl,
the sticky toilet seat, air
claustral with stink—
all residues and traces
of the ancestral   
spirit of body free
of spirit—hence,
behind the station,
at the back end of the store,
hidden away
and dimly lit
this cramped and   
solitary carnival   
becoming Saul   
becoming scents
and animal; hence,   
over the insides   
of the lockless stall
the cave-like
scribblings and glyphs   
declaring unto all
who come to it
in time: “heaven   
is here at hand
and dark, and hell   
is odorless; hell
is bright and clean.”

More Poems by Alan R. Shapiro