On our way out the door, my three-year-old 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 overcoat, 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 his ass again. He hops off the toilet,
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.
Seido Ray Ronci, The Skeleton of the Crow, Ausable Press, 2008.