Four children, one tub
no running hot water––
How did she manage to keep us clean?
With pots and kettles on the stove
heating after supper on Saturday night
in preparation for church on Sunday
morning. The heated water half-filled
the claw-footed tub, and whoever was
first in the week’s rotation stepped
gingerly into the steamy bath.
My favorite slot was number three.
Like Goldilocks tasting the bears’
porridge and finding the bowl of Baby
Bear not too hot and not too cold
but just right, so it was with the third
slot. Granted I sat in a growing scum
but I didn’t mind, what with the rinse
the warm rinse a comforting caress
after it all. Like animals nuzzling
their fresh hay on a cold winter night
and settling into their clean bedding
with quiet nickers and oinks, we
settled onto clean sheets, murmuring
to each other as we fell asleep.
My world is filled with hanging things––
pots and pans and cutting boards
sifters, spoons, and time-dried apples––
Things. And people too are hanging,
ancestral pictures nailed on walls.
Surfaces. Flat faces. No depth but then
move on to the eyes and there reflections are
of pots, pans, cutting boards
time-dried apples pungent with hidden life.
I lay this salver down before you
with the song I sing a thing of gold
upon it, my intention to please in
an act of love. Like Farmer Hoggett
in the movie Babe, who sang and danced
the pig back to health, I would if I could
dance for you like David before the Ark
where you dwelt alone. Would you
feel less alone with my song? sung
in a voice old and unpracticed?
and what I have to offer
to you whom I love.
To what extent do I mock Antigone
as I pass the beheaded hen on successive mornings,
her position altered by some night beast
perhaps, or just the wind
stronger at intervals
than the resistance of feather and flesh
I walk past on hardening ground
to give hay to living cows, higher
on the scale of likely return.