I have been writing for thirty-five years and it is strange to go through old writing. It is like finding an yellowing photo of yourself from the past; you can remember the day, but the photo is really different than you memory, as if it was not you, but someone else. The colors and the shading are different, and you are not sure if it has to the yellowing effect of time or faulty memory. The poem below was one I wrote while at Fuller Seminary ten years ago. I remember the events it captures, but memory is a strange thing. The time keeps flowing out beyond our control.
Reading a collection of poem, A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of PoetryPoetry Anthologies), while soaking in the tub at Midnight after a double shift of waiting tables
Today, I delay
and dip into hot water
for a longer visit. I read aloud a poem
written by a Chinese master,
and a poem written by a living
American poet. I wonder where is
Pablo Neruda? Why is he missing
from this collection? Imagine?
My breath lingers long
in my lungs tonight.
Alone, I sit soaking
in the unhurried hot water,
slowly leaking away from the
bathtub’s unrepaired leak.
My sore muscles, the grains
of Epsom salt and the balmy
water commune in a common
space. The water continues
to proclaims it will soon disappear
with gurgles. The sound reminds me my bath-
water will leave. I will presently be with-
out the heat which the water brings.
I am reading, in this imperfect tub,
a book of creation-wide poems
edited by Czeslaw Milosz, a deceased Polish
poet. Words written from throughout
the ages and from many places
moves within this roughed up
paperback book. Aware
of my pain after an eight-hour plus
work shift, I release my stress
through boiling away the tenderness
of my feet in the company
of words. Poems calling out visions…
traveling trains…a floating
boat of a thousand years ago
entering an ancient enchanted
Chinese city…an old woman contemplating
the emerging wrinkles
around her lips. My water drips
away. I focus. I pay attention
to my spirit decelerating
into a dramatic voices.
Listen to breath
my wet body’s demand. Words without time
prance before my exhaustion.
My body releases
the soreness from serving food
for money. Bathing
in hot water is rare for me.
I am one with my generation
who has no time for bathes.
Showers, yes they are immediate—
Water spraying and lightly touching
and pounding then recycling out
of the open drain—water rushing off
in high speeds of cars and planes
taking away the residue dirt— a shower
flushes about my body
and gathers in a shallow pool
at my feet and then swirls down
the drain—this is my normal bond
to water and cleansing.
Tonight, the water in my tub keeps
going on and slipping down
the copper pipe of the ninety-six year old house
I have rent. Water is, as if carried away
by a well-woman’s
noon day bucket, shamed but alive.
after word after
I feel better even as I hear the rambling
out of my soon departed bath. Most of water
drops down the drain, except
for a few beads left on my body. In this dead
of night, I am cold.
So, I towel off.
I prepare to go into a deep
slumber to repair the damage
that comes from my mouth to month
stays in the lungs.
Blood and time continues to flow.