by Erin Redfern
Everything about these baths is naked:
the flayed stone, the unfinished spigots,
the underwater bodies swaying like pale kelp
with its fronds and bladders.
Beyond the cliff’s edge, the sea’s
slick chorion surface heaves, summoning me
as though I could slide out of my skin
and through one of its whorls
like a wet seal pup.
I soak in this tub, a fleshy grub, and watch
what look like flakes of skin or scales
suspended in the water. These sloughed bits,
the body’s lost syllables, slip where they will.
How do you see them against the skin
where they stick? How do you tell
live cells from dead? How do you sort
what is given from what’s left
unsaid? When words reach
equilibrium with what stays
unwritten, the body’s solution
is silence. I have feared
its unbroken membrane, the pupal
wriggle of it, beached and gasping
for a mouth to gasp. Like waves,
like skin, language breaks
and makes itself again—
our largest organ, a composition
shedding words as it’s written,
the way water spills from gills,
both drowning and breathing.