Yesterday, Jodi and I attended a wonderful writing retreat focused on grief and healing. A good deal of writing came out of the day, but this poem by Jodi is one piece I will treasure forever. With her permission, of course, I share with you Jodi’s poem, “Sacred.”
Drawing your bath after our family dinner—
Not too hot and not too deep—is my sacred duty.
We will spend the next half hour building and destroying
block towers on the side of the tub;
hiding rubber duckies under colorful, plastic nesting cups;
transferring water from one container to another;
and flinging wet washcloths at the tiled wall (at just the right
angle and velocity) to see if they’ll stick.
This is our sacred ritual.
Before you walked, I picked up your slippery, warm body,
wrapped you in a hooded towel, and carried you to the bed to be diapered.
Looking down at you as you kick, kick, kicked
inside your sleep sack,
there was no past or future,
only the simple perfection of “now.”
As a bigger boy, you were eager
to exit the tub by your own self
and skip ahead to picking your bedtime stories.
Once you hurried a little too much and slipped crossing the hall.
You were more careful after that.
The song Mommy and I made up about frog feet, the one with the jazz clap at the end—
I remember how you always nailed that last whispered “yeeeeaaaaah,”
like you’d been doing it for decades in smoky nightclubs.
It was cool, man, that you liked jazz.
In the hospital you weren’t allowed to have a regular bath.
We filled the pink plastic tub they provided
with warm sterile water heated in the microwave
and scented it with lavender oil.
After some initial obligatory protest,
you quickly learned to love
long, luxurious foot soaks
while one of us gently bathed you in bed
with the softest linens we could scavenge.
Bald head wrapped in a baby blanket, serene in your post-bath glow,
you look like a child monk.
You cling to me as I dry your chafed back.
Afraid of tubes pulling and bandages tearing, you no longer hurry for anything, even stories.
We slather you in soothing ointments and balms during the diapering ritual.
We didn’t quite make it to potty training, did we?
Space enough for only two on the blue, vinyl chair-bed,
I transport you to Mommy’s waiting arms for snuggles
Together, you gaze out the big windows overlooking the city.
It’s not the same; we all know it!
no singing about frog feet, no jazz clap, and sometimes no stories at all.
But holding, yes, and humming, yes,
rocking, yes, kissing lash-less eyelids, yes!
—a sacred nightly spa-fragranced baptism—
Clinging desperately to the now, stretching it out as long as possible,
I watch you fall asleep,
the hopeful scent of lavender heavy in my nostrils.