Tahara

By Roger Soffer

        Hebraic ritual bath for the dead

        …and I will pour upon you pure water.

                                                          ─Ezekiel 36:25

 

In the steaming bath, he wants to dissolve like salt,

like promises, like the news, dissolve his body,

dissolve his father, his father’s Nash Rambler,

dissolve vitamins and physics, the world’s unyielding noise,

dissolve waiters who’d never bring his father’s meat well done,

and the pool who’s pH refused to be tamed,

and the son, who sprang, as it were, from an alternate source.

 

It seemed so easy in the beginning, didn’t it?

A laughing boy and a wife.

But she wore an apron like a costume,

held the family under lamplight and textbooks

and stories of ghosts she mistook for the living.

He wants to do more for his father now,

as he sits in his father’s sunken bath,

as he remembers his father’s panicked eyes

reading through stolen diaries thick with ink.

 

There were days when they fought, and spit flew from their mouths

and they astounded the parakeets on the fireplace that never burned wood.

There were days when his father stood stiffly in the living room,

searching, as he’d later do with eye charts,

not just the last line unreadable, but three lines, a blur.

 

He wants to undress his father, fold his clothes in the chair,

lead the emaciated body into the bath,

sponge the gray hair of his chest, his cheek,

wash away memory, as fragile and irrelevant as dirt.

He wants to embrace the man,

and with only the quiet drip of the faucet between them,

dissolve his father of his father,

relinquish, on his father’s behalf, that uncomfortable role

and all the goods they bought together, and paid for.

 

—–

I’m a working screenwriter on miniseries and feature films for Disney/ABC, Warner Brothers, Fox, and Paramount, with credits including Merlin’s Apprentice, Star Trek: DS9, Kazaam, and Category 7. As fun as that can be, poetry has been (and is!) my antidote. My work has been nominated for a Pushcart, and my poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a variety of journals, including Briar Cliff Review, Crack The Spine, Forge, New Laurel Review, Pennsylvania English, Southern Poetry Review, Spillway, and Stickman Review.


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