BEB: On Nights When I Am Michelangelo

by aden choate

On nights when I am Michelangelo, I buy

a pack of Marlboros from the kiosk outside

the liquor store. I sip espresso with a kick

and smoke in the corner of a dingy café.

Burning—the ash darkens and melds, dissipating

in the fading fluorescence like dancing dust.

Clad in a turtleneck and Italian leather

shoes, I attract the attention of a woman

fingering dog-eared pages.

She smiles a suggestion.

Cheeks gaunt. Eyes hollow and too far apart. The type

to spend early mornings awake, lamenting

existence. Silence floats between her and me.

Her symmetry is wrong, and under my gaze,

she nervously looks away to ask for

the check. I shrug on my jacket and leave a

modest tip.

 

On nights when I am Michelangelo, I am

Asleep. My teeth crack and cut my bottom lip

as I wander city streets—mortar and bone—

sky stained and blooming red, purple, black. I

stuff calloused fingers, agitated

by caffeine, into charcoal-filled pockets

to quit the shaking.

 

On nights when I am Michelangelo,

Store window mannequins grin at

the moon beneath smudged glass. Ink-bled flyers

litter gutters and sewer grates. I take a swig

from a bottle. Before I’m drunk and penniless,

gnawing hunger brings me to the butcher.

Tired elbows rest on the watermarked counter.

I get the usual: Half-pound of ham. Some cheese.

A loaf of bread. He puts it on my tab

already long overdue.

 

On nights when I am Michelangelo, the bell

announces a new customer. I don’t notice—

I sketch the gentle curve of the butcher’s

Forearm. His hands present a problem.

I can never sculpt the wrinkles and joints and—

The butcher’s wife calls out “Ciao David” but

before the imminent vanishing, I glance to meet

eyes of murky seawater. Sharp jawline. Softly

curling hair. He smiles a suggestion.

Muscle ripples in the cords of his neck. He turns

to go. I hesitantly clear my throat.

 

On nights when I am Michelangelo, in the stunned

aftermath, the sweating, the yearning,

David is when I begin to awake.

Michele Dale