by Janet I. Buck
Bath time drew us both to water cheerfully;
we were just a pair of ducks
rollicking a summer pond.
My sister leapt the slippery edge,
but Mother had to carry me,
set me in like china plates.
Two long years of itching skin,
rashes bright tomato red,
my body cast had just come off.
She added bubbles to the bath,
drew more water, not too hot, not too cold.
Snapped a picture here and there—
to give us paper memories when she was gone.
She knew she had leukemia;
life was shorter than she’d planned.
Time to double-up on joy—
we got two cookies with our milk.
She brought a jar of Mr. Bubble in the room,
gave us each a plastic wand.
When bubbles on our skin went flat,
we had the other kind to blow in wishes for eternity.
She never told us not to splash, not to waste a bar of soap
scrubbing the legs of a rubber giraffe.
It really seems so simple now.
Nasty words are twice the size of pleasant ones.
We took a breath, puffed it through the circled ring,
watched the moons of cellophane grow big and round,
fly the air, then disappear, so unaware of destiny
that rolls in tractors over flowers.
To little girls, the barbs of life don’t register.
Our chests were flat as tablecloths without a stain,
curly hair like poodles dipped in riverbeds.
All we knew was tuna came inside a can;
we’d never boned a fish before.
She trimmed the crusts
from all four corners of our bread,
worried that another woman in her shoes
would make us choke on arid textures of the food
she dumped upon a dinner dish.
She sat upon the toilet seat,
watched us share our floating toys,
make up stories for their lives.
One squeaky dog would someday be our president.
My light green frog would hop until it learned to skate.
This was all I’d ever know of soft warm towels
straight from bellies of a dryer.