I just finished giving my littlest daughter a bath. I remember the time when I was really afraid to bathe my little squirming babies when they were infants. The days of bathing my children are coming to a close. My oldest, nearly 12, and my middle daughter, 10, take showers. My littlest, 8, still loves to play in the bath and have me help her bathe, but soon enough, she won’t want me to.
As I was smoothing the conditioner in her blonde hair, I got to thinking about a poem I read of Pablo Neruda’s poems called To Wash A Child.
TO WASH A CHILD
by Pablo Neruda
Only the most ancient love on earth
will wash and comb the statue of the children,
straighten the feet and knees.
The water rises, the soap slithers,
and the pure body comes up to breathe
the air of flowers and motherhood.
Oh, the sharp watchfulness,
the sweet deception,
the lukewarm struggle!
Now the hair is a tangled
pelt criscrossed by charcoal,
by sawdust and oil,
soot, wiring, crabs,
until love, in its patience,
sets up buckets and sponges,
combs and towels,
and, out of scrubbing and combing, amber,
primal scrupulousness, jasmines,
has emerged the child, newer still,
running from the mother’s arms
to clamber again on its cyclone,
go looking for mud, oil, urine and ink,
hurt itself, roll about on the stones.
Thurs, newly washed, the child springs into life,
for later, it will have time for nothing more
than keeping clean, but with the life lacking.
A whole lot of time has opened up for me recently. I want to fill this time with art, with poetry, with gift-making, and with writing. Poetry has been on my mind lately. I have so much I want to express poetically and I think it’s time I start learning more.