Showering with Shanti (Peace), Goa, Sometime in the Early Eighties
Her name was Shanti and she craved
We stood in a bucket shower, a stall
of tangled vines. She was a Citizen
of the World,
she said (though her accent spoke
of the States)
and asked, breathlessly,
was Herbal Essence, and could she please please
borrow some, extending arms thinned to ropes
from a while in India.
While I was just visiting, no matter how long It felt,
so squeezed a gob
onto her waiting palms, and then,
as they waited longer, another gob.
She pressed the pooling gel
onto her splayed part, right in the center of wet hair
already flattened, closing
I don’t know anything
about her experiences of peace,
but there was bliss–
her whole being–from lathered crown
through smiling fingers, nose, thighs, shins–a stream
of shine, freckles dwarf stars
in a bubble of–It comes in Strawberry?
I squeezed more into
her outstretched palms; she passed them
over shoulders, belly, hips, then cupped them
to her face as if they were a conch shell she might blow,
a prayer that she might call, an answer
to called prayer.
At the time I felt rather glad to be myself,
my ticket home safe
in my zipped passport pouch,
but in years since, I’ve thought of her face
more often than I care to admit,
wishing for at least a piece
of what she found that day
in between the pour
of pink shampoo and washing
every bit of her, shaded
by tangled vines.
Here’s a sort of poem I wrote thinking about h Mary Kling’s “peace” prompt on dVerse Poets Pub over this past weekend. (Shanti, sometimes spelled Shantih, means peace in Sanskrit.) If you feel like you’ve read about this story before, you may have, as I wrote a prose poem about it some time ago. I did not specifically re-write the prose poem for this draft, but when I went back to check it, I was amazed at the similarities. (I don’t know if that means that the story is true to memory, or that I easily get into ruts. Agh.) (I am posting this on iPhone right now but will include link for other prose piece later if any one is interested. I think it was called Duty/Calls.)
I am also linking this to the open link nights at dverse poets pub and real toads.