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The present tense

is the body’s past tense

here; hence

the ghost sludge of hands

on the now gray strip

of towel hanging limp

from the jammed dispenser;

hence the mirror

squinting through grime

at grime, and the worn-

to-a-sliver of soiled soap

on the soiled sink.

The streaked bowl,

the sticky toilet seat, air

claustral with stink—

all residues and traces

of the ancestral

spirit of body free

of spirit—hence,

behind the station,

at the back end of the store,

hidden away

and dimly lit

this cramped and

solitary carnival

inversion—Paul

becoming Saul

becoming scents

anonymous

and animal; hence,

over the insides

of the lockless stall

the cave-like

scribblings and glyphs

declaring unto all

who come to it

in time: "heaven

is here at hand

and dark, and hell

is odorless; hell

is bright and clean."

Gas Station Restroom

Alan Shapiro

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translated from the Ukrainian written by
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