Aria (Basso Profundo)
The groundsman meditates and works on
mathematical formulas in his shed
when he isn’t raking leaves
or cutting the academic grasses
of the university from which he
graduated with honors and
with a Masters Degree in Physics.
His radio is on a station that plays
classical music and operas.
His face is stoic, almost angry,
and, on breaks from his damp,
green duties, he takes off his shirt
and exercises or lounges in the sun
(wearing only his camouflage dungarees
and work boots), where students and
secretaries and department heads
can see and wonder at him.
I think he appreciates—invites—
wonder, but not women;
he doesn’t return their smiles
and appreciative glances.
I imagine that, in his own home,
the groundsman does his
calculations by candle or lantern light,
has soup every night for dinner,
and sleeps on a cot with a scratchy
blanket from the Army/Navy surplus store.
I have wondered if he could lift
heavy objects with his mind.
Once, in a thunderstorm, lightning struck
his pruning shears and he was knocked flat.
When the ambulance got there,
he was already on his feet, retrieving the shears,
walking with great determination to his shed.
From then on, his lip had a curl to it
that was almost a smile. We like to say that
gratitude for being alive gave him that smile,
but everyone knows it was just the lightning, nothing else.