The Poetry Project

Baptism Number Three

Leia Bradley Jordan

I want to ask my mother when the bathroom became her favorite room in the house, but I don’t. xThis
bathroom is where I keep the parts of myself
that are for myself, and no one else.x I lift up the bathroom tile
place the soft tufts against the grout.x Flush my fear down the porcelain
watch it whirl away with the other waste.
This room is where I am most honest, because it is where I can be alone. I take three baths a day, or one bath
that lasts several hours. I want to be submerged in something other than another body. Something warm,
that invites overflow. I want to sink down into it. But I am too old to drown in the bathtub anymore.
This is the only room that you can close the door, turn the lock, and not be under suspicion of secrets.
The only room without any windows.
I want to see the world, but like this?
I wipe the wine from the hardwood. Wring the blood out of the dishrag. A spider weaves a glissade along
the ceiling corner. I am not as patient as the eight legged: waiting, spinning yards of silk to seduce, to devour.
Love happened too quickly this time for me to lay any traps. The doves never had to be released from their
cage. There is no ceremonial, no psalm,
just palms, face upxxxxas offering
If only I knewxxxxxxwhat god was meant for me

I move all the mirrors in the house to the bathroom with me, facing them towards each other,
my body in the middle
in a steaming third bath
hoping to trap my own spirit
to see what she looks like
to ask her some questions, so
she could tell us
about us.
Like,xxxxxxare we our own ghosts
andxxxxxxxdo we haunt ourselves?
But all that flickers is familiar fire
a candle burning low at the edge of the bath
as Time lurches and spills out onto the floor
xxxxxxxxxxxThere is too much to know what to do with it now.
Is there a bigger god, one that could teach me how to make seas roar
with only my handsxxxxxxand a salt shaker
how to stop shovelling earth on a grave
I’m not even lying in yet
whose psalms or palms could actually, really heal me
But it is hard to drink waterxxxxxxfrom anyone’s hands
so I put my head under the faucet
I crawl into the sink
Bury me,xxxxxxxthis steady stream of almost ocean
Bathe me,xxxxxxlike you’d wash the body of the dead
Gently, slowly,
but it’s always only my own hands
and it’s always only water.

Work from Boo: Ghosts and the Unconscious for Utopian Dreaming with Claire Donato & Adrian Shirk