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
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.