When I consider the worn, petal-scented bar of soap
my lover inadvertently left in the deep woods,
alongside the river we camped by for a week,
I think first of watching her bathe there,
how I waited with her towel in the sun, her clean clothes
warming on the radiant stones.
Then I think of a man not unlike myself finding it,
a pink and botanical soap, in a perfectly scooped dish
on the back of a large, water-polished rock.
He senses her in the curve and slope
of its undoing at her skin, and holding it
to his lips he takes in some faint but vivid
scent of her, stepping clean into her towel and my arms,
which now are his, and who then, unable to help himself,
offers the soap’s pale astringent underside a kiss.
And what would I do with another picture
of her nude? The one I have I shown to no one,
not even her anymore,
for fear she might
want them back, or worse. But the one
I regret not taking most was that hot
summer night I rose for
a drink of water,
not even noticing at first I was alone,
until, in the hallway of the too-small house
we lived in then, I saw
her fully extended
on our son’s bed. He had a summer cold
and a little lifelong jones for the breast.
He was two, almost.
He’s been fussy from the
so she went to him there, and then there
she was too, sleeping – and all her long back,
head to heel.
In my half-wakefulness I
such a photograph’s mechanics: tripod, cable release,
the long moon- and night-lighted, sepia-
When I told her years
later how close I’d come,
she said I should have, it would have been fine,
and there lies the source of my regret: her late permission.
Though I think of it now
only as I slip the others
from the safe place they’re hidden in,
six in all: three along a mountain river;
one in a galvanized tub
at the hot springs;
another, fishing from the shore of a mountain lake, in sunglasses –
and then the absent one, framed by the doorway:
on the nearest edge of a
a stuffed bear looking on from the cast-off sheets,
the rasping boy out of sight on the other side of her,
and a particular sheen
on her skin, as if
she’d been basted or entirely, relentlessly kissed,
even the bottoms of her slender, delectable feet