The Bath Lady comes every Thursday
her teeth whiter than our old porcelain tub
spewings water through its nostrils like a
green copper dragon from the Plaza--
its water bubbling into the cauldron of my bath.
In the papered bedroom my left claw stays my chest
my good hand begins on the top button.
The Bath Lady brings out a towel and asks, How you been?
I take my pen protector out of my pocket,
nail clippers, a toothpick, magnifying glass, handkerchief,
and the floss I’m saving to use again.
Just fine. Fine. Fine, I answer when I think of it.
Finally, my trousers. They sink to my ankles
like a life preserver deflated on a deck.
The Bath Lady handles the rest, socks, slippers, robe.
Each of us in our own mind--alone.
Once my robe is gone, I am free I sink down
into my first bath in the old wash tub on the farm.
My mother comes. She rubs my back with warm water
and a wash rag. In this safe oval, I am a new babe.
My mother died before I knew to miss her.
I don’t remember her, but I can smell lavender water
when I say her name silently to myself.
What was that? asks The Bath Lady
Nothing, I answer.
The cold air ages me eighty some years.
I am pruny, wanting my mother
to come hold me again.