after Aszure Barton’s Lift at Alvin Ailey


I think it was something to do with labor—

the man, his body before me all muscle, skin like a contract holding him there,

lines pulled tight

and his joints at odd angles, body

capable, legs not unlike those folding to fit in their seats,

but visible

after the curtain has parted: cable, winch that pulls it through the pulleys,


his knees, his body at work,


of a sum

(a company): men, together—their bodies

in labor together,

for whom the audience puts their hands together

because that labor a work.

And then a part

of the women dancing

is shining thighs, their labor

evident in shining, the hands together again because

their movement a contract,

a kind of credit

that cannot be taken away, but only ignored,

and when they join the men, light on one man, the body of labor made center,

his sweat

in the stage lights,


byproduct of the work he is paid to perfect and perform not for himself

but for me—I watch with my friend

whose compounding interest

and asset accrual allow us to be here—

the ushers, house lights, renovated ceilings, heat lamps in fog along 55th Street in the rain,

the hundreds of animals joining in dozens of fur coats damp with it,

almost like money (the fruit . . .

You grow.

You eat.

The thing with which you pay your debts or save . . .

of her labor added to theirs, the whole audience), sum

and accrual

flexing not unlike

the muscles their nerves arrange toward a work

exceeding the sum of their bodies in front of my skin,              

a currency,

breathing a story—the labor of bodies other than mine—when a woman puts her face

in the pit of a man’s chest,

when his spine curves back to receive her,

is it labor,

or pleasure, or both—the sweat on his back—I feel—his breath

a product like smoke, a kind of evidence, proof

of a kind

of labor

not unlike love

and my purchase of it,

a clenching of muscle not unlike the lock of the winch releasing,

and she, midair,

allowing a break in the contract, a hole in the terms, a kind of evidence

of faith,

as if a bend at her waist, suspended,

into my ear, trust


and my receipt.

Wrong with neglect.

The proof leaning forward. I do: I

can almost see—