On my way out the door, my son says,
“Dad, I have to poop.”
After all the work of bundling him up,
“Go ahead,” I say.
He sheds his parka, drops his snow pants,
and mounts the high white seat of the toilet.
I unbutton my coat, loosen my scarf,
let it hang from my neck, and wait.
Almost immediately he calls from the bathroom:
“Papa, check my bottom.”
I lean over the small of his back as he bows,
lost in the flurry of my overcoat and scarf.
I wipe the crack of his ass. He hops off
the toilet and pulls up his pants, I flush,
and see shit on the fringe of my scarf;
disbelieving, I hold it up to the light,
“There’s shit on my scarf!”
He puts on his coat, mittens, and hat.
I’m reminded of the young monk Ikkyu
wiping Kaso’s shriveled ass with his bare hands,
washing his master’s frail body, rinsing
the soiled sheets, wringing them out
day and night till the old man’s death.
I think, too, of the stains on my father’s bed,
the nurses drawing the curtains to clean him,
his sunken eyes, looking into mine, ashamed.
“It’s all right, Dad,” I say.
“It’s not all right,” he says.
My son tromps to the door, flings it open;
a blast of cold air rushes through the house.
I wash the fringe in the sink, tighten
my scarf and raise my collar.
He’s making angels in the snow.
—from Rattle #25, Summer 2006
Tribute to the Best of Rattle
Seido Ray Ronci: “I am the director of Hokoku-An Zendo and an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia.” (webpage)