Kendall Hoeft

Bathing my Father

I. Sanctus

I wash your skin to the tunes of Zeppelin—
“Going to California,” “In the Light Ocean,”
“Ten Years Gone.”

You shift under water, searching for stillness.

Pupils flash like lures
under glassy flat corneas,
refractions of light—
waves under the surface.

I am a part of you;
a piece of me swam inside you.

How you must have cleansed me, too,
my tiny girl body
faultless and pure,
like a lamb without blemish or spot.

Tangled baby-hair
spread out weightless,
medusa in the water,
your little lion-head.

I must have stared,
floating in that deepest peace—
that is water,
that is Father.

When you spoke, time is up
did I whine, squirming like an eel?

Or jump up like first Baptism—
restored, euphoric, drunk on overflow,
my cup runneth over

for the warm towel and your voice,
this is my child, in whom I am well pleased.

II. Doxology

As you look up, I reach to give you what you need.
Holding your head, I soap up your white hair—
fluffy like an owl
puffy like Einstein.

When I rinse your scalp,
you make little purring sounds.

Careful not to let soap enter your eyes,
I pour slowly—

I notice the lit pillar candle—
recurrent bits of bright
twitching in oscillating ripples.
Shivering feathers flutter,
this moment is divine. This moment is linear, eternal, good.

When I come back to the body,
we are one.

Gathering the soaked sponge, I begin again.

III. Benediction

I paint your parchment skin—
strokes up your canvas back,
down your long arms—
arms always wrapped around a favorite Fender.

Your hand over that fret board, fingertips vibrating
emotion expressible only through the blues.

This intimacy, it kept you up at night.