A Oneness

The Rev. Dr. Paul McKeown

27 February 2014


You said in passing
that you'd washed your mother's hair
that morning.
I cannot now remember
when we spoke, or where:
sotto voce over coffee in the hall
or poised on sofas in your lounge,
your thin voice cracking
with the stress of it all.
And I confess, all else you said
has seeped from mind,
save that one lucent line.
You washed your mother's hair.
I see her now,
inched to the edge of her bed:
duvet down,
pink flanellette sheets
giving up the ghost of her warmth.
Tired nylon nightie
shapeless on her
as you turn and cradle round.
Bent double toward the steaming basin,
she grasps the table
stiff armed,
and bows her head.
Accepts the towel
you bequeath upon her shoulders.
Awaits her baptism
with the blue plastic cup.
Three times, four,
then five you scoop and slop.
Drenching her hair with wet warmth
'til it sits sodden
like soaked cotton.
You stoop and lather next;
fingers coaxing foam from nape to crown.
Working to a oneness.
Still lightly kneading,
through all the scalp.
Long after all that's needful has been done.
Both of you lost,
And found,
In the tender rhythm of touch.
The moment stolen, savoured,
stretched beyond saying:
time finally calls time.
You straighten up,
fetch fresh water,
And dip the cup again.
Rinsing all but memories away.
©Paul McKeown