Our bathtub is filled with buttons–
mother of pearl and metal,
plastic pea coat shapes with
wooden toggles from Holland,
horn and hemp.
Your hair is a gray dandelion gone to seed.
Your eyes flit like a startled squirrel
and saliva webs your mouth when
you open the door saying,
“What on earth?”
Later in bed that night
I listen to your coarse breath,
your frail bones moaning when you toss and turn.
But we were young once,
and you stitched beautiful things then.
You dressed queens and saints,
men with money.
I slink off the mattress now,
and click on the bathroom light.
As I slide inside the tub
the buttons chatter and gossip,
their color shimmering.
Perhaps you clipped them
because they reminded you of better days,
or maybe you overhead me on the phone with the rest home folks.
Either way, I grab handfuls and watch them clatter
across the great heap.
When I look up,
naked but smiling,
asking, “Is the water warm?”
Then, “Got room for two?”
by Len Kuntz
Editor’s Note: Enjambment and imagery thread through this poem’s narrative with deft fingers. The last stanza is brilliant.
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