When I was young and there were five of us,
all running riot to my mother’s quiet despair,
our old enamel tub, age-stained and pocked
upon its griffin claws, was never full.
Such plenty was too dear in our expanse of drought
where dams leaked dry and windmills stalled.
Like Mommy’s smile. Her lips stretched back
and anchored down, in anger at some fault –
of mine, I thought – not knowing then
it was a clasp to keep us all from chaos.
She saw it always, snapping locks and straps,
the spilling: sums and worries, shopping lists
for aspirin, porridge, petrol, bread.
Even the toilet paper counted,
and each month was weeks too long.
Her mouth a lid clamped hard on this.
We thought her mean. Skipped chores,
swiped biscuits – best of all
when she was out of earshot
stole another precious inch
up to our chests, such lovely sin,
lolling luxuriant in secret warmth
disgorged from fat brass taps,
our old compliant co-conspirators.
Now bubbles lap my chin. I am a sybarite.
The shower’s a hot cascade
and water’s plentiful, to excess, almost, here.
I leave the heating on.
And miss my scattered sisters,
all those bathroom squabbles and, at last,
my mother’s smile, loosed from the bonds
of lean, dry times and our long childhood.
from A Fold in the Map (Salt/Jacana 2007)), © Isobel Dixon 2007, used by permission of the author.