At first it’s your hands, blistered,
mat studs making soft flesh
raw, your back, pulling, heaving,
splintered, like working against
a wall, and your shoulders, tight,
burning, not strong enough.
And it’s everywhere. After a week,
two weeks, you just know. You’re
done or you’re not. If you’re not,
nothing changes. A buzzer goes
off, mats flop out of a dryer, hot,
rubber, acid. You tear them apart,
pass them over to the folding guy.
Another buzzer, more mats, don’t
want to let go. One month, two,
your baby flesh is hard, mean,
calloused. The buzzers buzz, the
mats drop out, but the body
learns how to twist, the feet how
to plant, pivot, the hands grip.
Eight hours, ten hours, twelve,
it doesn’t matter, you know too
much. You look back, when
you were virgin. You wish
for something, a nail pressed
through rubber you don’t see,
tearing across your palm,
enough so your grip changes,
the system of muscles shifts,
over one, a rookie again. A
day, a week, it’s all you need.