Washing the Body

by Margaret Gibson

And last, we washed his body

Last, we rolled it to one side of the bed, rocked it gently back, the long

length of him settled now onto a clean sheet

Last, I followed a crease on his forehead with my finger

Last, his daughter washed his hair, massaging his scalp, sloshing

the soapy water

Last, his son sponged his shoulders

And I, each finger; he had beautiful hands

Last, his thighs, his knees, his shin blades

Last, we washed his feet, their soles a smooth new silk

And I for the last time his genitals, still warm as a woods-earth nestle

of wild orchids

His no-breath-now stayed sweet

Last, his eyebrows, bushy, outrageous, a fleck of water caught there

bright in the lamplight, as if a snowflake from a walk we took

years back across a white field had freshly fallen

I don’t know who crossed his arms across his chest

And last, he was warm when I kissed a mouth that would not close

nor speak, nor allow us to enter

the mystery of his being beyond us now, no crossing that threshold

And the silence in the room was, as it always is, ordinary and vast

Last updated November 03, 2022