Ritual Washing

by Luke Otley

What started as a western squat
strains gently into an eastern squat,

the gum soles of your shoes
pressing into damp sand, flat

and you bring the flannel, dripping
up to your left armpit, first

then the right, and the water is cool,
the sun bright.

River weeds release their easy grip
from their easy bed and begin to drift,

tendrils reach out to flannel, flannel reciprocates,
and the union is brought over your bent head

as you stare past your forearm submerged
to the wrist, and dead skin loosens

muddy, like city snow. And you might not breathe
at all, or let out long slow lungfuls

like leech let blood. Too precious
you know them to be now,

those simple, peaceful
moments.