Barry Wallenstein

Worker’s Lament

The very first day
I started cleaning at Virgil’s villa,
I was terrified of breaking the crystal,
scratching the fine oak table
with the vacuum,
or damaging the machine itself;
but on that same day, after one long look,
I feared most
being stripped by his daughter.

Virgil had a rough beard
and a bald head wrapped in a bandana.
I thought him a pirate
or a professional wrestler.
She looked like a ‘20s flapper,
a rosy face – natural skin.
She pointed to a room,
the one I shouldn’t clean.
She left me that evening with a taste
stranger than my first fear.

Way Back Then

First I thought I’d faint, but I awoke instead
about 30 miles from the city
with the sea on my right;
and her elbow (good fortune) on my left.

She pressed her thumb and middle fingers –
slightly oiled – on my upper spine
and drew them downwards
towards and onto the coccyx and
then ran those lubricated digits back up
to the neck and put on pressure and
then swiftly ran them down again
paused awhile – passionless –
and then slowly all the way back up.

In between then and now –
on and off – my back’s been my enemy;
too many stones were lifted
some made it to the wall,
others not.
Now, I’d welcome that very masseuse –
if that’s what she was, some time ago.

A Minute’s Something

You have the slow eyes of an old man
and I do not, sitting here,
imagine you growing younger,
nor do I know the condition of your body.

OK, let’s say you’re clean
but with a mind slick enough to capture
some part of my fancy.
I could fall for that for a minute.

Close your eyes;
I won’t pick your pocket.