Your fingers, free like octopus limbs, mellow
like moth wings, folded
my infant-body into the tub and lathered
me with lavender Johnson’s Nighttime Wash.
I splashed and shimmered in the soapy iridescence
until you split into epileptic fits, your fingers locked
like claws, and I squealed
and squirmed until I was pulled
from the helix of water.
I woke to the smashing lashing of your teeth, the burble
in your throat like broken pipes, the snapping scratching
of your nails like bird claws on bark.
You didn’t notice me hanging
on to the bed’s edge, watching the clock blink every minute,
praying against bedsheets that Dad would walk through
walls and rescue me from your hands, and you
from my fear. I hid from you
in the bathtub for a half-hour until you became silent
in sleep, and then I returned to my own bed, beneath
my shell of sheets.
Your body flailed, like a hooked fish plucked
from the briny reef, and you christened the carpet with blood
from your face when you buckled from foot
to floor after your shower, still skinned over, exposed
like a sheared lamb. You must have been cold, your body
so seeable, so I inched beside you with my fringed
baby-blanket and cloaked it over you like a netted trap.
If only I remembered what you couldn’t….my head spread
your pelvis, tore through tissue like a meat grinder, and unlocked
open air in my lungs, and you receded into seizure flinches, remembering
only pain that pulsed and pounded in waves
before the moment I actually lived, but the more I lived and lingered,
the more I became merely your parasite, detaching
gradually from my host, my breath, my mother.