I never saw her naked before. Small,
bird-bodied, brittle-boned.
So like a breath
of feathers that is a wren.
She is easy to gather up.
Guide into steaming water.

Her bath, a ritual, a meditation.
A moment to escape
the days’ burdens. The weight-
laden years. All of it.

The struggle of stairs.
The long day’s
clock unwinding.
Whose deaths
came before? Whose children

Surely she must suffer
her body
to her daughter

who wrings the sponge
over her shoulders. Wrings
the soapy water
sheeting down
her back, her breasts.
Passes the sponge
between her legs.
Eyes closed
in the shame
her child should know her

Tired. Still,
rapt in the pleasure
of clean. Of warmth
on her skin.

Outside, wind-whipped branches
clack against the window.
The sharp struck rhythm,
staccato and hollow.
Winter chords.

The inside air pungent.
Salves. Lotions.
What remedies there are
for growing old.
Her skin, ancient silk
beneath my hands,
apt to shear, tear.

This sure knowledge of endings.
I stroke and massage
to release her.
Do what I am able.

Robbin Farr is a poet and bookbinder. Though she often writes of loss and mortality, she is surprisingly optimistic and engages in life and support of the arts with zeal. She counts among her closest writing collaborators, Charlie the cat who is prone to snort with dissatisfaction at the awkward line.