Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Story Poems

I was willing for the poems to be an intimate portrait of time with my mother. Our time together included helping her get to toilet when she needed that. I felt the poems in what I jokingly call the “shit-cycle” helped present a more complete picture of care-giving and aging. “Butt Wipes” is one of these poems and I hope that you’ll find some humor and sweetness in it.

BUTT WIPES

"Who's butt have you wiped today?"
My new slogan for getting through the day.
My own, sure. Hurriedly, on the run.
Mom’s.
Magpie’s, my five-year-old great niece.
Butt wipes are beautiful.

"I have to go potty."
Okay, then. Let's go.
Little pot? Big pot?
I remember sitting on the little pot.
Dark wood with a shelf in front to lean on.
Many family butts sat there.
The Big People's Toilet, enamel and high.
Sometimes she needs a little boost.
Then, sits there, smiling, teetering on the edge.

Take Mom. Are you going somewhere?
R: "Well," all shy and coquettish.
"I thought I might take a trip to the TOY-let."
She lingers over the first syllable, then hits the last one.
Let me get your horse.
Don't move a muscle,or you'll set off your alarm clock.
There.

I walk backwards, in front.
We chat along the way.
She admires the passing scenery.
Moves forward in small steps.
R: "You are my guide."
Yes.

Light on, vent fan, through the door.
Pants down, ready for action.
Bottom lightly supported as she eases down.
“You inspire me.”

I sit tub side. She swings her leg, waiting.
It's always the left one.
Cute, like a schoolgirl.
She wipes and wipes and wipes.
I meter out the toilet paper.
We flush and flush some more.

Let me give you a special wipe.
R: "Oh, you don't want to get close to this mess."
I like to do it. It's my pleasure.
R: "Aw, pooh."
You did it for me. Her laugh breaks the tension.

She rises. I part her cheeks. She did a good job.
Pants up. Hands washed. Both of them.
Random smears wiped off the porcelain throne.
I do like it. It is my pleasure
It's part of our time together.
Butt wipes are beautiful.

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  1. When I talked, played, and sang of “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” | Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century

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