You should see me work out lately, what a piece of shit.
I wrap a towel around some weight
and meander through a series of absurd exercises
a barely clothed model’s invented to teach me
the ways of his body, then lay on the carpet,
ceiling clouded by sweat, video still
rolling, listening to the much stronger man
continue to harass me to strive for greatness.
I’ll touch a real human again, I’m told.
I can see one outside, smoking
in front of the hotel doubling as a shelter. In my mind,
he’s already receded generations.
Like peering into the black and white photographs of war
museums. Faces, you remind yourself,
filled with the same hopes and dreams
and fears as you – though the very act
of having to force yourself to remember this
proves you don’t know it.
Everyone works without pants now
because consequences require getting caught.
Our care for ourselves the product of our responsibility
to others – our care for them
circling back to their care for us,
like a Russian doll opened to reveal
the first mother.
If missing people is the titular loneliness,
this is its essence. The worry,
once the doors to the world open again,
that some of my friends will be gone
not from the Earth but my life. That living
through screens will have stripped us
of the pedagogy only bodies provide.
Or maybe I just hate exercising
when no one can look at me.
This is vain, but what is vanity
but the desire to make an exciting life
out of strangers? Every look, maybe,
the one before the smile that seals
the friendship, the gaze that chains you
to their devouring eyes, when your body begins
to look at them and love
to do only what their mouth wants.