Getting her ready for bed

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Poetry
The bathtub's water chills
our feet—placid water,
swirling filmy and dull across
places, years. Our rings
would corrode here, or the drain
would open its little mouth to
swallow them. So I keep them away, safe,
on the mantelpiece, beside
the copy of Swann's Way she never finished.

When we're finished, I lift her out.
My fingers fit in the spaces between
her ribs, her skin as cold as the chipped porcelain.
I'm tired, she says, leaning to put her damp head
on my trembling chest, and I remember other times—
in dances, in embraces against the cold days brilliant as mirrors—
when she held tightly these arms
now aching with her weight.

When our sleep is infrequent and we cannot tell
rest from waking, rain mars
the window's sight like it would a book's pages,
words reduced to half-syllables, a black contusion.
Outside, trees sit nailed to each other by shadow.
She rises from the bed for the bathroom, thin as a wraith,
forgetting her way in this house we've lived in
for decades.