shining the boy - daphne gottlieb

Every morning, the alarm is a blessing. It is my clarion call, my
radio hit song, a racetrack blank that guns me to a start.

It’s time to shine the boy.

We have an agreement: I skip the feet. He isn’t Jesus, or a
statue, or anything else, just a boy. He’ll polish his own feet,
later, when he’s alone. He’ll think of me as he rubs the rag over
his feet. He’ll think of me.

Today, the knobs of his knees are ruddy and angry. I smooth
their anger away, soothe them neat. His thighs are still
somberly somnolent, muscular and staid. His crotch is eager
for more attention, but there’s so much to be done, and time is
so short; if I wasn’t charged with polishing the boy, we could
lose days. He stands so still. It’s the hardest thing we do.

He sighs sweetly as I sweep over his chest. At the crown of
his head, there are a few stray hairs that I supple down; I rub
the sleep away from his eyes, softly, gently, as gentle as sleep
can be gentle.

He stands gleaming in front of me. He smells like the earliest,
most jubilant fireflies. People don’t understand. They tell me
this is servitude or some sort of submission, but they have no
idea. They don’t know how much power it takes to really shine
someone, make them stay still when they want to quiver, take
them to the point of collapse because they’ve never shined
so hard. It’s a lot of light. They don’t know and I can’t be
bothered to explain. I’d rather be shining the boy.