The Bath

Angela Herrera

This is what one hundred years look like:
A rounded wrinkled back,
sparkling wet and soapy above the shower bench,
and my hand,
having ­gently formed in your seventieth year,
and emerged with lifelines bent ­toward blessing,
scrubbing ­circles across your soft, white skin.

I drag the cloth beneath your arms,
silently blessing each bend and crease
of breasts and belly, whose curves were determined
in the womb
of my great-great

When you are dry and warm,
one hundred mantras of gratitude
sweep over my heart
that I am the one standing in the frosted light,
rubbing wisps of fragrant talcum into each sweet fold.

Tomorrow I return to Boston,
and you’ll keep on in your chair
by the picture window
looking down at Seattle.
You are too old to tell your stories now
and have all but ceased speaking,
your thank you honeys
like gems at a silent retreat.

But the stories have become me,
the lifelines that led to my lifelines,
and your name was mine
long before I was dreamed
and was born.

For now there’s no reason
to talk.
I adorn you with perfume and color.
Powder, lipstick, rouge.
We get out the pearls.
Looking down at your toenails,
with a fresh coat of glittery red,
you erupt in laughter.

Will you have to take it off?

All day I kiss you
as often as I can
without making you suspicious
that I’m saying goodbye,
knowing that when you’re gone,
I will rise a generation.
And as storylines are lifelines,
I too shall pass them on.