Kabuki Baths

When I can stop thinking
about how old I am, how my stomach
has tucks, curves, soft places,
my face, lines, shadows
that didn’t use to be there.
When I can stop
the sounds of advertisements
in my head for age-defying
wrinkle-free creams. When I can stop thinking
about how my knees creak, or listen to the sound
my neck makes when I turn my head or notice
that my skin is thinner. Freckled. Hands
no longer smooth, soft, the hands
my mother would take in her hands,
say she envied.

When I undress,
shower and wrap in a towel, walk,
across the wet tiled floor, drop the towel, step
down into the hot pool of water,
these thoughts drop, dissolve
into the water with me.

When I slip
farther into the water,
all the way down completely
wet, warm. These thoughts
lift with the paper layers of my skin
I breathe.

From my watery place
I look around
the tiled, candlelit room
at other bodies: heavy, skinny, tattooed,
scarred, old, young, big,
small. I feel at home here,
one of all of us, each
with our individual shape, size, story.

Sitting up I feel calm in this still
place, back in love
with my body that still loves,
moves, with my feet that have walked,
danced miles. Hands that cook, garden, hold.
Shoulders that catch the sun.
I stay longer.

Sharon H. Smith is curious, seeks out new experiences, and has a drive to share them. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and frequent collaborator, architectural photographer David Wakely. She fills her heart weekly as a volunteer with Food Runners and is a champion of and volunteer at Creativity Explored. She produces Birdland Journal, featuring pieces written by Birdland Retreat participants. Her poetry has been published by Haunted Waters Press, Laguna Writers of San Francisco, JuddHill.com, Gravel and Tell Us a Story. Her chapbook Held is forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks.

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