Smoking, she stutters, ‘I wish I’d never been born.
I’m too soon in this world, not of this time.’
I shake my head; she’s not
Making sense, the cool bath water
Slick on her hair, like bear
Fur. She’s wearing her favourite pink slip

As I bathe her. Bubbles slip
Over pinked skin, flush as a newborn.
Her pursed mouth tight over her cigarette, bare
Of lipstick: something she ditched a time
Ago, her face naked in the grey water.
Her reflection is all about what it’s not.

Piling her coarse hair into a knot
I hum to her, her rosy slip
Transparent underneath the flush water.
I can’t believe I was born
Out of this pelvis, now mysterious with time
Her grey pubic hair more than I can bear.

But it isn’t for me to bear.
The way the foam melts is not
Reflective of me – this is her time –
Or rather, it isn’t, as it slips
Down the soft cracks of her nail beds, borne
Away by the swirling bathwater.

I realise the song I’m humming is lost in the water.
She smokes, indifferent. Her bare Back
is newly born
Under my yellow sponge. It’s not
Wrinkled at all, unlike her slip,
Which has had its time.

That was when she was still a woman, a time
She thought it gave her modesty and sex appeal, but the water
Knows better, has made the slip
Childishly, innocently bare.
I’ll not tell her; no, I will not.
She deserves to be reborn.

Perhaps she does not wish she’d never been born
But I do. Time is something she need not
Know, but is something that slips between us, me, as knowing as water.

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.