Bathhouse, Hakone, Japan
Once she crosses the threshold
she takes off her clothes.
Mirrors in the room register her body
but for now they are superfluous;
later, when she re-enters the familiar world,
she may care how she looks, her face
perfectly poised at the moment of reflection.
She follows the other women to the line of showers,
sits on a plastic stool,
slowly washes her hair with liquid soap.
Her body scrubbed clean
she soaks in the bone hot bath,
as steam from the springs opens her pores,
pixelated flowers in bloom.
Beyond, mountains and still lake
protect a red core of magma, resting, scalding.
All are naked here, she is
a recognizable female form
of no differentiated quality.
Bathhouse, Centreville, Virginia
Her friends are getting older; laughter sits deep in their bodies,
and spills out of their eyes like the morning sun.
She could not tell you if they are physically like her
or unlike her even though they are naked today,
hidden only occasionally by water.
She does not look at them for comparison,
does not measure their smallness or girth
for they are not sexual things.
Between steam and ice and clay and stone
who is watching? No one.
Leeya Mehta’s prize-winning poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been published in the U.S., U.K. and India. She is the author of The Towers of Silence. She grew up in Mumbai, and after travels through the Arctic borderlands and Japan, she lives in Washington DC.