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‘The Story About the Exercise’ and other poems by Glenn Ingersoll

By: Glenn Ingersoll

The Story About the Exercise

Her cheeks have a touch of color.
And she is wearing a red sweatsuit.
“I’m getting so that I look forward to Artemis,” she says.
The health club where my brother’s sweetheart works.

“Rae was showing me a new exercise.
I was tired of those old ones.”
My mother mimes the exercise.
She contorts her face and her arms flop like broken wings.

She describes the contraption Rae has been showing her how to use.
“Two ropes pass through a ring.
The ropes are attached to a weight. Except for me.”
Rae knows all about muscles.

She is trying to show Helen which muscles need to be toned.
She is trying to demonstrate the best exercises.
A physical therapist has to know this stuff.
Mother and I go for a walk.

We pass two cars, each on a different block, each empty,
their motors rumbling away.
Mother brought a typewriter she found at a rummage sale.
A benefit for an AIDS-care organization.

It is a pretty good typewriter.
The print is dark and clear and all the keys work.
I will probably type this poem on it.
The new exercise my mother does with the ropes is simple.

It is much simpler than what Rae was showing her.
My mother is not going to be a physical therapist.
“Now that you’re not around I’m kind of at loose ends,” she says.
“No one to listen to at midnight.

No tiptoeing because you’re reading or in the midst of a poem.
I don’t have to think about cooking for anybody who won’t eat what I fix.”
What next?
Both she and my brother tell me they are trying to listen to each other.


I Buy Tulips

One tulip was red with a white stripe on each petal.
One was pink.
And the other? Orange. No, no. Burgundy.

I think he looked good with them tucked in the crook of his arm.
He went away with tulips
I wouldn’t have been able to buy
a coworker happened upon me outside the supermarket
while I was eating deli potstickers and egg rolls;
she said, hi.
I said, hi, how are you.

She was around long enough we got to how I’d run out of cash
and she offered to cash a check for me
and I said, no, no, really, that’s all right.

Only, it’s a good thing I changed my mind.
Otherwise I would have been unable to buy the chocolate chip cookie
from the lovely brown boy
with the one continuous eyebrow and the magically perky ears
who runs the bakeshop next to the bookstore.
I sat inside the shop eating the cookie, the wind blew, the rain fell.
And I was able to buy tulips
to give to Edward Field
who gave me a hug, he was so surprised.

There were all sorts of things I wasn’t able to say.
After the reading I stood near the magazines
until he finally walked out the door —
the poet getting a ride to San Francisco
with old friends,
his arms full of tulips and books.

“I gave one away to a black whore who propositioned me on the street,”
writes Field in a letter.
“It made her happy too.”



in hedges gusts rat
from lonesome scatter leaves
scurry to clump under that

just beyond the diamond
a stone bench waits for the cloud

which straggles from the splintery bleachers
trails along fences
touches bases

at the far end of the outfield swarms
the sponsors’
painted boards and tumbles over
into bushes

forgive the cold
its hold

who wouldn’t want
my hand

there’s cloud enough left in the oaks
to drop a drop on my sleeve
two, you say, for you

I appreciate this dark
on that shoulder

all the way up
link by link by link
to the backstop’s eave

the ringing I pat out
ching ching
of the hand you warmed for me

in the crowded pocket
of the jacket you put on
not wanting to



When the wind, cold with sea,
puffed no striped umbrella,
cooled no glisten of sunscreen on a shoulder,

when, yellow foam crackling,
wave after wave rolled kelp heads and their ropes,
and seagrapes hissed,

when, between washes, sand flea burrows
bubbled open, and, carried over them,
not one gull cut the white with her gray,

when no dog unhooked from leather leash
heaved himself at the frisbee with the chewed edge,

when, brown bottles broken in the coals,
old fires’ only motion in log-hid holes
was the falling-in of new sand,

when, in the dark spaces of dunes
no one turned to touch, and there were grasses
sliding merely against grasses, I

stretched out my arms,
eyes tearing,
left ear an ache under the wind’s battering. I,

the one in stiff cotton standing up,
the one in hard shoes,

the one
chilly, damp, squinting, breath
by breath moved

white, water, wind, sand

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