American

by Michael Estabrook

The pain flares up when I overdo it
like of course I do
I’m an American after all like when
I’m chain-sawing dead trees or painting a room
or doing too many squats in the gym
you know you shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights
the doc said not with your history of high blood pressure . . .

But I have to now that the whole
sexual thing is behind me
strength training makes me feel like a man again
what other senior do you know
can deadlift 385 quarter squat 510
I still want my girl to be proud of me
like back in high school and confident
I can take care of her . . .

I’m glad you’re so strong she tells me
as I pull the air-conditioners
out of the windows single-handedly
strong like in that nightmare where
I’m visiting my father’s grave
standing at the foot of it when suddenly
the dirt begins to crumble and dissolve
into the darkness below
as if inviting me in . . .

Yes of course I know I need to lose some weight
I’m not an idiot but it’s just
a damn donut for fuck sake
reminding me for some damn reason of when
my first girlfriend dumped me
then got caught by Mr. T making-out in the curtains
backstage with his creepy jackass named Peter . . .

But what can you do that’s life after all
my brother would remind me
sometimes you poke the bear
sometimes the bear
pokes you my daughter would say . . . I only wish
when the pain does flare up and nail me in the back
I wouldn’t cry out like a little girl . . .

I’m a weightlifter after all at least
I tell myself I am like I used to tell myself —
you can be anything you want to be
my daddy used to say —
I was a Dante scholar, a biologist, mythologist,
astronomer, archaeologist, a genealogist discovering
that the first Estabrook — my fifth great grandfather —
came over here from England in 1791
worked his way over as a sawyer on a ship
he wasn’t a carpenter
couldn’t build anything with the boards he made
all he could do was saw them . . .

That kind of sums up the whole damn mess really.