Stamina
Paul Hostovsky

I have carried my stomach all the way from that day to this.
And for that I congratulate myself.
For I carried it out of the burning house
like a barely breathing child, carried it
like a burning house back and forth to school
through a whole childhood of unhappy lunches,
unlikely loves and combination locks.
Carried it into the outfield with its own
number stitched on the back, stepped with it
up to the plate, protecting it
from the wild, the sidearm, the lefty.
Carried it into junior high hiding it
from the cruel eyes just looking
for a stomach like mine, sat with it
like a god in the lap, genuflecting
imperceptibly in the back row of algebra.
Carried it all the way to California.
Carried it through doors that opened outward
and through doors that opened inward
and through doors that turned clockwise
and counterclockwise. Carried it into a marriage
and out still wearing my father-in-lawís socks
and my motherís disenchantment
round the mouth. Carried it with bellying
sail into barrooms, strip joints, filling it
up with boilermakers night after night,
careening home all blustery and bitter
through the oily, vertiginous street.
Carried it into a hospital one day
where they took it out and looked it over,
put some of it back and threw some of it out,
which explains the pained look but not the twist
of forgiveness round my motherís mouth I still wear
at the beginning end of my alimentary canal
which Iíve carried from that day to this nor once set down.