Thursday, January 26, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by Michael Koehler

As I lather his face, his skin,
in the concentrated kitchen light, is dark and slick
as old onion skin. I am amazed at my gentleness.
An infrequent shaver, prone to stubble and beards,
my hands are now sure, the blade steady.
He sits with a towel wrapped around his scarred bony chest,
head on the back of the chair,
eyes closed.
As I scrape a three day growth off his face
and into the bowl of water on the table,
I remember the times he trusted me.
I was not always this focused, not always this true.
The house is quiet,
only his breathing and the rasp of the razor.
I notice how sparse his hair, how blue his skin.
His eyes are huge behind their lids, and I wonder
when the time comes, will I be able to put coins over them.
Done, I pat his face dry. He snores softly.
I bend down over him, like a father over his son's crib,
cup his face in my hands, memorize it with my fingers.
If he wakes I'll say "smooth as a baby's butt"
because that is what he will expect from me.

~ first printed in UA-Huntsville’s POEM and simultaneously, in
Notes From Skinner’s Elbow (Wolfsong Publications)