Between Wind and Water
How dangerous bathwater could be if it saw itself as she sees it.
Its storm foams around the perfect barrier of her body—
merfolk, too many to save, bob face-down in the waves.
The rescued pant at the edge of the tub, hair scattered like shipwrecks
on the porcelain shore. They weep for their lost when their breath
is caught, reach for each other with arms not made for the hold.
Every bath is plagued with different danger:
a family of dolphins, orbited by a single shark,
click and squeak for mercy. Horses, neighs muffled
by the thick of the water, throw hooved punches in the gut
of the tsunami. Matchbox cars honk to get by, follow too close,
piggyback and cartwheel until they settle on the seabed,
If I were a better mother, I'd snap the cord of tension
that makes water unbreathable. I’d gill, known better
than to rely only on lung. I'd beak the shark, fin the horse,
take the keys, and snip the all the right wires. I'd center the storm
with heart or skin, or some other organ that functions
by what is felt, not seen.
When she’s done everything she can, she covers her eyes
with a folded cloth, descends vertebrae by vertebrae
until her head rests in the belly of my palm. I lather then rinse
her hair, awed by the resilient raft of her body. It lifts and lowers
as it learns the language of the waves, patient while the water decides
what it wants to sink, what it wants to surface.
Kami Westhoff’s work has appeared in various journals including Carve, Meridian, Third Coast, Passages North, The Pinch, West Branch, and Waxwing.