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Asleep At The Wheel
(Antigonish, 1979-82)

I catch the early show of Apocalypse Now!,
Walk back through campus and can’t tell
I’ve left the theatre. Howls and wails
Of students too drunk to learn or love or go insane.
They’re proof to me Sumerian beer came before
Bread or cuneiform. Some poor Sumerian sot fell down
And tribes walked around him until they had a road,
A society of question mark paths.

I make it to the dance, can’t find the girl
Whose soul I know but not her name or face
And move through the partiers, using the light
From the steam-sheened windows.
Human beings are mostly liquid
But not the ones around me, stepping on my toes
As I’m wriggled through the sultry mass
And squirted towards the nearest open area
Which happens to be a doorway and the crowd
Exhales like yeast that someone has let
Go too long, filling the space behind me.

I make it to The Wheel-- pizza place, the hub
Where students and townies meet, where the cashier
Looks rushed even when the place is empty
And treats me like a stranger every night.
But she’s not at the cash-- just the girl from a party
Two nights ago, who danced not at all respectably
In delightful shiverings, trying to shed
Her clothes without touching them and who smiled
As if her lips were scissoring across her face and who then
Walked into the bathroom, came out with two rivulets
Of red gently eroding the skin of her wrists,
Two fountains bubbling softly from the fertile crescent slits.
She’s serving pizza tonight and her wrists are pillowed
In pure white gauze and I don’t lose my appetite
So much as wait for her to dance
And turn all of us into a noble court.
I wait, like everyone else, for her to threaten
To end it all again next week,
The same way we all watch the news from Poland or Iran.
It’s three minutes to midnight and she walks
As if her shoes were made of glass.

I’m waiting for my number to come up,
Reading an anthology of anarchists.
Everyone else is nodding or asleep at The Wheel, 12:00 A.M.
I play Asteroids for awhile, go into a spin
To break up the boulders into too many smaller ones
I have shoot at without aiming. I hear my number.
I stand up in front of a guy one-and-a-half times
My height, three times my width. He is a smilingly drunk
Mountain who asks, “Aren’t you the guy I beat the shit
Out of last night?” I say no and he says,
“Are you
sure ?” and I wonder who I’m saving
From a second beating, or if somewhere along
The crooked line my nose makes me walk
Through my intellectual collision courses
I’ve been hit so hard I can’t remember
I am the guy whose memory is clenched in this guy’s fist.

He wanders off and I sit down
With my pizza and stare into its perfect greasy sheen.
I take my chances eating here. I take my chances
Studying the greatest words and thoughts
Mankind ever wrote because they de-civilize me daily.
When all the others wake up they’ll be behind a desk,
Watching the one-way spin of the clock
Wondering whatever happened to university life,
Bitter they had to spend four years reading things
That they can’t remmber a word of. As I watch them civilize
The world I’m biting deep into the pizza
Like a dog bites into a wheel.