Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
The Last Bath of the First Snow


This might be the last bath we will take together,
so of course I say yes
after shoveling and traveling
from your north to south pole,
a trudge between the mounds
made from the porch to the car.

Anyway, if I keep you out any longer
you'll get too cold and we might dig too deep,
reveal the grit of gravel
that embarrasses our perfect journey
like something caught between teeth.
A spoiler.

We leave the snow to its clean perfection,
let nature and traffic be the ones to muck it up.
It won't always be this smooth,
so we take that bath.

The house is warm,
the door so strong between climates.
We take off all our layers
and there are many
probably more than you need.

In the hallway I ask you to stay
near me and remarkably you do.
We unroll our cuffs and let the matted
snow, pats of chilled butter, give up on the carpet.

Your pants are a thick wet;
under that your PJ's are sopped too.
Your little red thighs cold to the touch.

You delight in the red tinge of my skin,
knowing that you are of me.
We run up the stairs in just our undies
and you love this part, think it's better than toast.
You ask if we can hold hands. Of course we can hold hands,
laughing as we try to fit our cold compressed
bodies on the same bare step;
your happiness is in your mouth,
the way all your square
first teeth line up.

Do you know too
that this might be the last time
with me in the bath?
You give yourself over to your little girl life.
We sing about riding in the car. I'm the driver.
I suspect you give this one to me.
Our knees sink under the water. A tight fit,
our different displacements.

You don't reach out for me with a baby's need,
but you let me mother you.
I wash your hair
letting the water
swerve around your perfect ear
as if you are snow that I don't want to melt.

Colleen Michaels lives in Beverly, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Bread and Circus and Blue Collar Review. Last year she was commissioned by The Trustees of the Reservation to create a public art installation of her poem “Align” at Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She teaches writing at Montserrat College of Art.

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You make me wish my kids were small enough for one last bath.
Your imagery and tone are so lovely and warm -- and so familiar in so many ways. Thank you for evoking my own special memories of times like your First Snow.
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