When I asked her what it was she wanted, she said,
taking off the Egyptian cotton robe with its froth of lace
and the coral necklace and earrings and dropping them,
First I will have soap and be held slowly. I allowed
that I had never drawn water to wash a woman,
and she led me to the bath. At world’s end it comes out
as it does anywhere, hot on the left, and the drain
pours debris back to abstraction. She sank down
in the enamel basin. By what have I arrived, I thought
aloud, then quietly. Xenon, woven carbon,
gasoline, she said, a salt-steam gathering.
It is late yet, mariner, to drift windworn,
awaiting wind. When my arms passed through
her ribs, I was young. Once poised to the touch,
she turned, no sleight nor solved, not brine but gone.
Michael Rutherglen is from Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the recipient of a 2008 Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. (11/2008)