Gary Fincke: “Vertigo”




Each morning the bedroom broadens,
its walls fleeing from your fingertips
as you stagger and widen your stance
to manage the necessary crossing.

For weeks, this private journey has been
your secret, how you reel on level ground,
height nowhere near your struggle against
pitching sideways into public decline.

Your wife, thankfully, sleeps soundly
past your inept sailor’s gait, the way
you slur and stutter to the bathroom’s
blessed handholds, compensation

for the crowded landscape of sink
and toilet, the stiff threat of bathtub.
In an hour, maybe more, Steady,
that old friend, should visit, humming

“These things, too, shall pass,” the song
your father despised like the walker
he abandoned each time he entered
his house, relying upon hand-over-hand

along its furniture and walls, creeping
that left evidence-trails of fingerprints
as if every step inched along a ledge
running the rim of a fog-filled canyon.

Not yet, you tell yourself. Not today.
Though you hug the walls, terrified
of the sudden shove from behind,
a jostle from the side, some impatient

stranger mocking you, disgusted by
hesitation and caution while you mark
the time it takes for balance to arrive
after awakening presents its demand:

Sit up for your dose of nausea or
surrender like a snowbound hiker,
consider no choice except standing
because Normal, that arrangement

you love, depends upon traveling
through the hours when unstable
seems merely a filthy habit. Believe
that permanent will always dissipate

like fog, your mouth firmly closed
until the dizzy, late evening when
you confess, your wife embracing
your body like a needy Samaritan.



Gary Fincke has a new collection of poems, For Now, We Have Been Spared, scheduled for publication by Slant Books in 2024.

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