Poem Bathing by Gail Onion

Poem bathing.

An hour spent reading

favorite poetry.

Sometimes there is ecstasy,

a respite from care,

sometimes reassurance

that the world has meaning

there is wonder and awe

and how to find peace in the mystery.

Sometimes there is rejoicing 

Sometimes there is lamenting

Sometimes, the words are a beautiful music

or a necessary silence

as the poem ends in a soft hush, ineffable beauty

as in the forest.

Sometimes the poem is like a letter

that begins, my dearest, I am so sorry

or I love you.

Even on days when I do not have an hour

for a full poetry bath

a sponge bath made of Haiku

or one precious line or two,

murmured over and over,

restores the deep breath that calms,

recalls what is of value,

melts the knots of doubt,

the mute voice in me is liberated,

the poem has left me its wings and wisdom,

the windows of perception are cleansed,

I sing myself awake again.

Poem Bathing

This poem delights me, starting with the title, Poem Bathing, which made me think of forest bathing, a Japanese exercise called shinrin-yoku meant to encourage people to spend more time in nature for its benefits to mind and body. As someone who loves to bathe in poetry, I was intrigued. Time spent reading poems can offer ecstasy, respite, sometimes reassurance / that the world has meaning, so many possibilities for wonder and awe.

She gives us many options, for music, for silence, for a poem ending in a soft hush, ineffable beauty / as in the forest. She tells us a poem can be like a letter written just for you, the reader – poem-letters of love and sorrow and every human experience. As a fan of Haiku, I love the idea of a Haiku sponge bath on days when you don’t have enough time for a more full, luxurious bath. She highlights the value of one precious line or two, your own personal mantra that restores the deep breath that calms. This I have experienced many times, reminding me what is of value when I forget or doubt.

A final striking metaphor is in the line, the poem has left me its wings and wisdom. Have you ever experienced that sense of lightness and insight that can be found in a poem that seems written just for you, how the windows of perception are cleansed? And the opportunity to sing myself awake again, perhaps even to find peace in the mystery.

9 thoughts on “Poem Bathing by Gail Onion

  1. An exquisite poem. I must admit to having thought of forest bathing too.
    She really gets it about poetry. I laughed out loud at the haiku line….just time for a sponge bath!
    I worked for hospice for 4 years as a social worker and I marveled at the grace and focus of the home health aides who bathed the patients. They made it like poetry. Simply beautiful.

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  2. Jan, this is lovely and reminds me that I never feel I have enough time to even take a ’sponge bath’. I feel I’d like the luxuriousness of just sinking in deliciously. (I have a collection of a number of poems to type up and save and haven’t gotten around to even doing that. At least I have collected them)

    Thank you for encouraging me on this path. Margaret 613-725-6941 h 613-795-9879 c

    Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

    Oscar Wilde.

    >

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  3. What a delightful poem, capturing so many pleasures and balms of poetry! Thanks for introducing me to it, dear Jan. xoxo Mary Lou

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