I Miss Our Clawfoot Tub When We Were Poor


2014. Acrylic on press cleaning sheet, 14 X 9″

Ours was a nice tub. They’re all over our town. The slumlords keep them because they last, and can be moved around when more rooms are needed to stuff people in.

Below is a poem I wrote in the claw foot tub when I was young, poor, and reactionary. From On Rainy Days The Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself:

Last Night in India

Last night in India the power went out
The blackness just got blacker
if you can imagine that.
You can’t
So I’ll tell you
They froze to death.
Some soldiers marched into their hut
Kicked a body out of its bed
and assumed the whole village dead.
Everyone was wearing hats.
Thirty or forty people frozen
They stopped counting at lunch.
Lunch happened and they stopped counting.
The government got a wire.
The international press was having lunch
So the news never got outside
the frozen Indian village of dead people.

But Sita did.
She crawled out from beneath
her mother’s embrace
crying and keening, upsetting the tiger
who was prowling the village for lunch.
He leapt toward her door with a roar
and a hungry guttural growling
his coat rippling with hunger
Sita walked out wailing
but when she saw the starved tiger,
stopped her tears in their tracks down her cheek
and began to sing the lullaby
her mother sang while she froze.
Now this tiger was very moved
calmly waiting a long moment
even sitting his haunches back on a ground stone
while her lullaby sang careful and slow.
Then he leapt onto Sita
eating her very quickly
from her tiny head to toe

You thought the tiger would
take Sita by the yellow scruff of her sati
carry her to his cave high up the mountain
nestle her in his warm softness
for many many cold nights to come
and teach her the tiger’s strength and courage and beauty—
Why should the tiger clean up your mess?
He’s a wild animal
But so heavenly beautiful
in truth
that the least I expect from him
is still a whole lot more
than any human would do.

Prove to me otherwise
and I will sing man’s praises.
Until then I sing for the tiger
the dumb hungry moose,
the puppy, the cat,
the Sitas in my life—
who know no lullaby but hunger
and warmth and play…
The earth is a wild ball
Let us walk upon its turning
devouring evil
which can only be a human thing
because they know how to spell.
I tell you
the only evil in the universe is human made

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