HOLDING ON TO MYSELF

In the mornings or in the evenings or in the nights, even,
when I was tired and needed to wake myself up, I came
to the bathroom – the first door there on the left
if I was walking from the kitchen,
and the second door on the right
if I was leaving my bed.
I then found myself
naked
and sometimes shivering.
By many a trial and tribulation,
I came to discover the optimal position
of the temperature dial just as I came
to know the location of my feet in space.

Once behind the curtain…

When I was younger, living back in the apartment
down the street with my mother, when I still wore
around my neck that thin gold chain
with its azure stone cross from Colorado, I would
bathe in days’ dirt, praying for the jewelry of my body
to hang lower,
carry more,
to achieve girth.
Perhaps it was greedy Jesus who answered me,
but I believe skittery puberty did heed the call.

I imagined a woman with me, too:
I was a game show host, and she,
my assistant, turnstiled the letters
around for our nice contestants
and the audience. After the show,
I held her up against the concrete
wall and I grew between her legs.
She moaned. She loved me, I guess.

…in the shower,
I gripped the protruding handle
of my body, shed a stream of waste to the drain,
watched it swirl in water slipping from my back.
I cleansed myself more yet: I blew my nose
and out came blood, flung against
the once nude tile beside me; from the head
ran water along my bicep, down to the forearm
and connecting hand; it sprinted.
With a consistent soap, I spread away
the filth from my scalp and underarms,
and I led the conditioner to my crotch
where I discovered myself often and alone.
Behind the curtain, hidden from the toilet
and sink, too, in the room with me,
my thoughts were also rather naked;
they shook themselves like a woman,
fully aware of possible improvement.

Eventually, and soon, I knew the genial warm
was not endless, and my mother scolded me
with her tired mouth and its gravel tongue.

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