bupleurum, orchid, lily.
of wonder. Her
plays on. Play on.
She flowers her eyes.
the shade if it’s not light.
Without my glasses, all the world becomes Monet:
a fine pierced window in the hararet’s dome,
its pointed star to conjure a summer night
softens to pulsing circle that
enchants the steam to hiss and rise.
On the hot marble, my glasses
lie useless, the first wave of heat enough to fog
me near blind, so even my eyes are naked.
I simulate delicate decorum; soon I am near splayed
as the sweat forms rivulets running
down all this reddening earth.
My forehead hosts liquid pebbles. I turn and press
to gray marble, smoothed by the skin of generations.
The small becomes a newly formed lake.
Tiger marks stretch at my hips. For the first time,
I am not ashamed of patterns. I am surrounded
by taut and hang, girls in their play and crones
whose bodies have glowed, carried, birthed,
mourned. My breasts are among many breasts.
We are a tribe of sweat.
The attendant calls me over for my turn
of lemon-scented suds and the raw scrape
of loofah mitts until the dead flakes crust
in rolled balls of dirt. She washes them away
with vigorous hand, over and over again.
I have never been touched this way by a woman,
intimate and rough in the cleansing.
I am steeped in citrus spray from head to toe.
She pulls my hair as she washes,
then leads me to the founts,
fills a metal bowl with cold clean.
She sets to her ruthless work
erasing the frizzle of soap.
She points the way back to the dark pool,
the heated waters where nymphs are descending.
I dangle my feet a while. Those bathing
look hungry for flesh.
The slab receives my meditation again:
pulsing stars in a cloud stone dome. The scent of lemon
and musk, heated air so thick as to swim.
When the salty slick returns, I feel out
shining bowl and the frigid,
feel the silk that stretches across muscle and bone.
Here the space where reality slips into trance,
the gossamer haunting of habit – a side of the bed, a tumbler
tapped on the bar before slipping fire down
an upturned throat, the ghost trail of fingers felt
on the breast before the seeker searches the hand
out to do its real work – querencia. More than fondness
for a place or a certain light, it is the tip of poison
in the pleasure, the lily of the valley with its curved,
white petals perched on a child’s tongue like a bell
just about to be rung.