Whatever he wants to touch, he may,
and whenever. The tools dictate a job
that dictates a motion. No one checking.
No one watching. His vertigo on waking.
He calls the job The Nile. He must catch
a bus for The Nile—get off on a messy street,
brave the addict soldiers who never seem cold
in the cold. He’s got unreadable lips to read.
His steps echo on the marble stairs. Down.
He parts the reeds. The Nile waits. Hanging
heavy and rank, it belches devoutly, offers
obscene asides on what bloats out and floats up.
He arrives on time to remove red underthings,
wean rigid fingers from diamond rings.
Nance Van Winckel’s fourth collection of poetry is Beside Ourselves (Miami University Press, 2003). A new collection of poems is forthcoming from University of Washington Press. She has received two NEA Fellowships and has recent poems in APR, Ploughshares, New Letters, and The Massachusetts Review. She has also published three books of short fiction, most recently Curtain Creek Farm (Persea Books, 2000), and is the recipient of a 2005 Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship and the Patterson Fiction Award. New short stories appear in The Georgia Review and Agni. She teaches in the MFA programs at Eastern Washington University and Vermont College.