At the sink you fling your mane of golden hair
over your head, exposing bare shoulders,
one bandaged to keep the collarbone still
so its break can heal. I test the water
as I did when I lowered you, a baby,
into the sink for your bath. How awkward
this seems, a young man thrown back
on his mother’s care, and the tenderness
of that care flooding back on me.
I try to be brisk and cheerful as I spray
warm water and lather shampoo. Avoid
caressing what is no longer mine to caress.
When you walked into surf, ten-foot waves
hurled in by the eminent hurricane,
your mind must have been elsewhere,
on your brother, perhaps, his wedding
the day before, or your college graduation,
a tide of changes that left you drifting
toward a murky future. Water
that seems so tame pouring from
this tap fell on you like a live thing
hungry for flesh. Tackled and scraped
along the bottom, helpless against that
force and weight, you thought you were dead.
At the base of your skull, curls dark and coarse
surprise me, hidden as the secrets
in your life. You are brusque as I wrap
your head in the towel. Under the bandage
your bruise morphs from blue and purple
to green that will dim to yellow and disappear.
Or do bruises never disappear, only sink
to a ghost deep within? How many words,
evasions, deeds of mine ache under your skin?