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 Martina Reisz Newberry

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.

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