Agnes Hanying Ong


into the heart of the city
a neopuritan man lifts his hands

up to reach the pull-up machine,
which i sometimes use as a pulldown

machine for salvation from what
an anthropologist once described to me

as the inevitable curse of bipedal homo erectus
down at the arcade, i decide to walk into a sports 

equipment shop, thanking eve for having decided to
grow up, make her own decision and eat the fruit

of the tree of knowledge of goof and evil. good and evil,
also goof and evil. if she hadn’t done that, we would

probably still just be crawling around, with less back pain,
religiously popping out fellow crawlers, with less labor pain.

a non-neopuritan man tending the store approaches me,
asks if i needed anything. yes, i say, i am looking for

a dumbbell. he leads me to stacks of dumbbells in
the corner of the store. one stack consists of bare 

steel dumbbells, the other of the ones coated with rubber.
the bare ones are double the price of the coated ones.

i pick a coated one, livestock-branded “12 lb.” at home,
i set it down on my twin bed that has its own precious

pheromones and lie down. with my lumbar region
on the dumbbell, i begin to squirm and writhe in

unholy ways as the thorns of postural sins pierce
the flesh deeper, sink into the yet un-exorcisable

bones and blood just right underneath. i feel like
st. benedict, said to have gone around rolling 

in rose bushes to discipline the flesh. good
people, straight eyes, catch me ridin’ dirty.


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