Bathing My Mother
She braces herself
for the question of hot water
and her whole body responds in relief,
the first bit she’s had all morning.
Leaning against the shower wall
we begin, the way I would
if I was bathing a child—quickly,
as not to prolong this simple act.
I lather soap between my fingers,
unfurl my washcloth over her skin
carefully, so not to touch her incision.
It is all business, my hands rotating
in a circular pattern down her hips
and between her legs,
her body slick as a sea lion’s.
She reaches around for the cloth,
no words, but I listen
like a stethoscope
for her to say something.