She thinks of how easily supple rose petals bruise,
how quickly flowers wilt. Naked,
kneeling in the tub, her nether regions
rising as she tries to rise-
she doesn't feel erotic, but assailable.
Does her aging body spurn her?
As she kneels balancing carefully-
to rise slowly with breasts hanging forward-
afraid of falling alone in her bathroom
where no one would hear her-
she doesn't feel sensual, or sensuous,
as she used to. She doesn't dream of sex,
or passion, ardor, or orgasm.
She remembers a news photo of a woman
kneeling as she's stoned by angry men, a story
of a woman made to kneel by her rapist,
a suppliant virgin sacrificed in ritual,
a woman bent over river stones alone
washing clothes-surprised by her violator,
a woman in a motel
kneeling over, dead in a pool of blood
as she grips her innards
with the pain of an illegal abortion.
She doesn't dream
the substance of love poems
as she kneels and bends-
naked now and old-thinking
of all the women who have assumed
this suppliant pose, not only for men,
but for their war gods-
in whose names bombs are exploded over cities,
and land mines set to blow off legs
of children running after butterflies in meadows,
farmers tilling fields to feed their families.
As she rises from the tub
she wants to look upward,
raise her arms full of snakes and power,
raise them heavenward
as ancient figurines lift their arms
like magic wands spraying beams
from each spread finger.
She wants to invoke
the vast mystery of space
as a proud suppliant to all that lives-
arms thrust upward, palms open to light.
Even if she's nothing more
than a temporal body
trapped inside her second of sempiternity
with tired heart weakening
as it beats inside her breast-
just an old woman rising
from the porcelain shell of her bath,
alone inside her small chamber
in a teeming city, looking upward
at the ceiling and the light over the sink.