To the tub filled with baby warm

water, I guide her disrobed frailness

from walker to bath chair, she lifts


her arm from my shoulder to wall’s

handrail—shiny in the half-light. I wash

her face that’s sometimes wrinkled


with confusion, sometimes pocked

with laughter. But only compassion

flows through the washcloth, finger tips.


My hands cleanse her in secret

places, the unclean places, our eyes

touching each other’s tears. I rinse


water, as if baptism, a rebirth pouring

in thin sheets down her back, each vertebra

a rosary bead I stop to pray on


for just a moment, while lifting her

soft-silvered hair stranded with beauty

of age, and a sorrow of not remembering.




In the shower, my husband and I, touch

each other’s face, our lips softened

in the same jazzy steam; we caress


our hurt away, thankful that we stand

together, our hands on the other’s back

rubbing each bead of bone


in silence.

John C. Mannone has work in Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene's Fountain and others. He’s the recipient of the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature and two Weymouth writing residencies. He has three poetry collections: Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing) won 3rd place for the 2017 Elgin Book Award; Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press) featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books; Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing). He’s been awarded the 2017 HWA Scholarship, two Joy Margrave Awards for Nonfiction, and nominated for Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He is a professor of physics near Knoxville, TN.