Now the showerhead sprays my chest
with that first blast of cold water sitting in pipes,
now too hot, now just right and now
I turn my body in this small space
between your shower chair and
aboriginal chieftain, elephant seal,
mountain gorilla thumping his chest
to watch your body emerge out of stone—
every tendon tense beneath a skin
sunless, cinder-veined, incandescent
deposit of ancient seashells
a mountain range dredged and crushed.
And now I fill the pitcher, and now
lather a bar of soap smelling of peppermint
between wing bones. I can feel
your facial muscles wince
as you wrench legs far enough apart
a spout of water can wash suds
from your labia. No need to say aloud
how far away those mornings
after making love when, standing,
you’d silk your hands with conditioner
and try once more to rouse me, mocking
the futility of blood trying to rush back in.
Cicadas pump tymbals into grating chants,
gardeners bicker over who clips the laurel hedge,
its shadows shriveling, dew staining
watermarks on blades of grass. The dog
barks to let us know we’re not alone
and the world ripples in beads and dribbles
of a lukewarm cascade that is
a crash of rapids pulling us
into their undertow, into the beautiful
home of your voice, of your hands. Not
wing bones—ridges for a dorsal fin, mottled
skin of a Coho sniffing vast crowds of
ocean molecules for a droplet of its origin,
arms that want again to slash currents,
hips that want again to spasm with desire
and regret. Did I wench your recalcitrant body
out of its cold inlet? Or did your body
thrashing to stay free drag me
into a world you inhale in surges of water?
Water too hot again as you lean back
to rinse your hair as my hip bones brace you,
as the skin of my lower abdomen feels again
the slippery otherness of you.
How easily now the blood rushes in.
Gregory W. Randall is the author of the forthcoming full-length collection Fantasia for the Unstruck Hour as well as A Cartography of Selves (both Conflux Press). Previously, he has published four chapbooks including Double Happiness (winner of the fifth Annual Camber Press Chapbook Prize as selected by judge Mark Doty). He and his wife, the poet Toni L. Wilkes, divide their time between Northfield, MN, and Sonoma County, CA.