The Shifting Ages of Man

as we lie down in our bathtubs, we end up
nearer the ground surfaces of our lives, and near,
brains tricked by distances, the world entire grows—
monolithic counters, low ceilings high-vaulted—

how huge must the world have seemed when still a child,
the age all took part in those bedtime rituals,
mothers leaning over—shirt wet, hair hanging—
scrubbing off the grime stockpiled from days of frolic?

perhaps, our porcelain-level eyes disclose
that it is we, like wonderland Alice, that shrink
down to the size of, become again, the child lost
(why we prune? too much skin for this infant’s form?)

in these hot and soapy fountains of youth we
rejuvenated souls refind the comfort and
contentedness, the steam-cloudy heaven, once ours:
all our working-life’s ambitions won without toil.

why toil for dreams as cheap as utilities?
why strip our childness like soiled clothes onto cold tiles?
better we play and play until bone and muscle,
shin-splinted and acid-lactic, ache unhealing,

only then, when the lifelong day draws to close,
soak away the dirt and pain and sweat and scabbing,
and towel off to lie atop soft linen sheets,
windows open to the eternal summer night,

to sleep the long sleep of the low blissful dead.

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