Scrap of cloth, old diaper or ripped sheet or tee-shirt,
I can’t tell anymore, so worn full of holes, your true
colors fading towards translucence. Whatever hurts
you’ve endured, whatever you once were, I still need you.

You have dried my dishes, mopped the floor, even
wiped snot from my child’s nose and the fever-sweat
from his forehead, sponged sticky semen
off my lover’s thigh, and, in a pinch, caught

and held her monthly blood. Like a little Christ
you have taken all the leavings of joy and sickness and pain
into yourself, carried them away from us,
to be washed off in the laundry, and rinsed down the drain.

I lift you from the drawer: soft, clean, smelling of soap. I owe
you so much, and this is all I give in return. You have taken
every insult, any filth, shamelessly as a saint, and not forsaken
me, and now you comfort me through this bitter, winter cold.

I can only thank you, as I hold you to my nose and blow.

(Ken Zimmerman 1995, appeared in Denali)

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