Locker Room Gridlock

We’re standing there naked.
Don, at least I think that’s his name, tips
on his toes to reach the remote on top
of the locker next to the TV on which our president
who is visiting our city this very moment
talks about unlocking the economy at a lock company.
He clicks off the TV, looks surprised when he turns
and sees me looking up at the now blank screen.
You didn’t want to watch? he asks,
though I hear it as a statement,
and I say, It’s better than all the Fox shit
usually blaring, then quickly add, I’m a fan.
I’m hoping my response sounds light and casual,
because I like this guy; he’s in his early 70s,
in great shape, smiles quickly and sincerely—
a soft spoken guy of substance has been my impression.
Truth is, though, he took me by surprise and
I’m feeling a bit irritated and now disappointed
that Don (is that his name?) is more conservative
than I wish him to be. With the TV off,
there’s a new silence in the room and it’s getting louder.
I towel off and rummage through my locker,
stewing in my own juices now. I’d like to break
this silence, simmer the stew that’s bubbling
toward a boil, but all I can picture is our president,
midsentence, assassinated with a remote,
and Don’s surprised but stitched-lip determination
when he turned and saw me standing there naked and staring
at the blank screen. Of course, a few years ago
I might have done the same thing
if GW was up there mangling the language and the world
with his good ‘ole boy Y’all want another beer while we watch
these bombs blow things up? But that’s the problem,
isn’t it? We’re all a bunch of cheerleaders and assassins
with remotes. I buckle up, run a comb through the few hairs left
and head for the locker room door.
I don’t say anything, no see ya later or have a good day
nothing. And more nothing coming from behind me.
I leave the gym with a bad feeling trumping the endorphins
I should be bouncing across the lot with right now.
Almost 65 years old and this is what it’s come to:
A couple of naked old farts grappling for the remote,
then filibusters of silence.
Why? The aisle’s no wider than a locker room bench—
easily crossed if you’re holding the compromise key.
Maybe next time I’ll suggest putting the TV on mute.
I’ll read as if I’m hearing impaired; he’ll salute
when the flag is raised. But when we speak
we will hear what the other is saying,
America will be blessed.

—Robert Nordstrom, Mukwanago, WI