What the Body Knows
All night he waits for us
and the drawing back
of the black-out curtains to fill him
with sunlight and hope.
Daily, we bear a copper bowl brimful
with hot water, finest triple-milled soap,
sponge and a thick white towel.
Hands heavy with oils
we massage his back in a rhythm constant
as tides, count the abacus beads
of his spine
and circle his calves with wobbly O’s,
then pull his perfect toes until
his breath matches
the hushed escalation
of eucalyptus leaves outside.
The night he dies, we lay hands on
his body, such a small boat, clasping
it firmly to the shore of the living
so that his spirit can rise
freely, even now loved.
– Madelyn Garner
(From my 2012 datebook.)