The Bath

by Lowell Jaeger

Toddlers frolic nude
through the lawn sprinkler’s oscillating spray.
Screaming joyfully.

My sister’s teenage son tears his shirt off
— his compatriots follow suit —
to spike a volleyball, score
points with the girls, watching.

I grill burgers on the deck overhead.
Nearby, my father — we’ve all called him “Gramps”
since I’ve forgotten when — fidgets
in his wheelchair. Grumping
about ice melting in his drink.

The toddlers wrestle in the inflatable pool
like a knot of slippery newts.
What the hell, Gramps frowns
to witness the teens mock-kickboxing
while their girlfriends cheer.

Gramp’s first visit today
from the hospice nurse.
Not funny, he says when I tease.

Toughest thing he’s ever done. She’d lifted
what’s left of him into the tub.
And scrubbed him.


Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is founding editor of Many Voices Press and recently edited New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from eleven western states. Jaeger is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize, and recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council. He was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting civil civic discourse.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

One response to “The Bath

  1. This is a sad truth that can’t be denied. Growing old with consequences. Declining health – mind and body. Something that can’t be changed but is still so hard to accept. For the person in question and also the loved ones involved. It’s a slow and deteriorating process. A battle that only ends in death. Well written! 🙂

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