“What Do You Do To Relax?” My Therapist Asks.

A poem about long baths, without judgment

The Beautiful Feeling of a Bath Photo by Hanna Postova on Unsplash

Turning the knobs
and stripping off my clothes:
my shoulders soften,
my breath deepens,
even before I enter the water.

I dip a single toe:
it tingles, melts away
the frozen feelings,
the moments I acted
stronger than I felt.

Water almost hotter
than I can stand,
so I sit,
then lie,
my head crumpling with a grand exhalation.

In here,
no one can touch me,
except me.

“What do you do to relax?”
my therapist asks.

“I take baths.
I take long, wonderful baths,
but I hate myself
for my lazy indulgence.”

“There is no shame,”
she says.

“No shame
in tending to yourself.
When you bathe,
be present.
Feel the water.
See the water.
Love the water,
and love yourself.”

She’s right.
I know she’s right.
This is right,
to let myself be
whoever
I need to be.

I am a crocodile:
mouth submerged, then nose.
Just my eyes betray me,
lurking in my claw-foot swamp,
alert for prey:
criticisms, obligations,
I will snap you in half,
you won’t even see me coming.

The water has grown
tepid.
I add more heat.
I might have to pull an all-nighter.

Or possibly stay here forever,
a crocodile — No! — 
a mermaid,
my seaweed-hair wet
and haloed around my face,
beautiful
and shameless.