Edith Wharton’s Bath
Two fingers of bourbon sit on the chair next to the bath.
You take a sip. A rare indulgence,
a thing avoided when times are hard,
when there is desire to lose yourself in an amber oblivion.
You have seen the result of that surrender too many times
and nothing good comes of it, as my grandmother would say.
Somehow, too much always bleeds into others’ lives
like a poison.
The ice in the glass keeps the bourbon cold
and you feel the first sip burn
then slide coldly down your throat
as you soak in the tub, steam rising all around you.
There is jazz playing on the radio. Mingus,
his fingers soft on the keys, oddly mellow,
music to release to,
not what most would call celebratory,
but then, you never celebrated like others around you.
This suits you best. A relaxing alone, or perhaps
with one of the rare people you are as comfortable
as you seem with, six lane conversations
as steam purges your body.
Those conversations are more rare than you might imagine,
You do not perform naked often, your mind more often dressed
in conformity and politeness than left exposed.
You am not proud of my scars. There is one, on your back
that resembles a bullet hole.
A man could concoct quite the story from that one round mark,
but the truth is, it was just a cyst.
The rest are things taken from your body,
a slew of surgeon robber barons doing their job,
taking the deadly things and leaving you
Alive to enjoy this moment. To soak away your sins.
To open your pores and your spirit
to surprise and change and the odd understanding
that many of the things you have always wanted most,
About this poem.
First of all, as much as I wish it was, this is not my bathroom. It lives in one of the many historic manor houses I love to visit. I think it was The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home, but I did not take notes as I usually do, so I can’t be certain.
I take baths. I know all the arguments for showers, but I don’t care. The soaking is good for my soul. My body just gets to come along for the ride.
My father was an alcoholic. I have never shown the least tendency to it, but even now, I am extraordinarily careful about drinking. Never more than one. And never when things are tough. Only when, a life mostly is these days, things are very good indeed.
From all that, this poem.