The Bath

by Christine Adams Beckett

When asked to recall her earliest memory,

She couldn’t be sure it imprinted

On the evening she was small enough

To be bathed in a porcelain kitchen sink,

But mature enough to recognize

The animal who was pilfering a banana

From the fruit bowl on an adjacent porch table

Was a raccoon.

 

The bandit mask hid a

More concrete identity of

The moment, which would later be bent

To fit her present Order, shift to comfort,

To draw significance out of a few seconds

Of serendipity.

 

There was no precise moment

When her brain had developed

Into a form that could imprint

And preserve moments in time,

Fix indelible experiences that suited ones

Before or after the bath.

 

Once a raccoon, a simple banana thief,

Later turned furry dexterous animal

When personified could talk

On the product of an herbaceous flowering plant.

 

Thanks to the lent voice of her mother

Raccoon could perform a passable

Impersonation of Carmen Miranda

In The Tutti Frutti Hat.

Through the lips of her sister,

The fruit thief becomes an integral member

Of Chiquita’s promotional team.

Brother turned Harry Belafonte

Declared daylight come and

Raccoon go home, Mr Tallyman

Offers a door prize to wash

In the lake with his opposable thumbs.

 

Now she recalls her Carmen Miranda,

Her own personal Savior;

The child in the porcelain sink, her disciple.

Washing her feet, so that her whole body

Be clean.  “Unless I wash you,

You have no part with me.”

Native wide cheekbones, reflected

Her own.  Deep brown eyes with no

Pupils absorbed her.  The raccoon

And his childish antics have been

Evicted by a 1970s renovation project.

Porch screens leave him and the wrens,

The sparrows separate from the

Domestic world.  But she

Remains.  A connection to loveliness

Invented to dry her with an

Enormous towel that still smells

Of lake water and delusion.