Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Forty
Spring 2016
Taking a Shower in an Empty House
Danielle Barnhart

“The appearance of the dead in dreams was enough to establish the worship of the dead….”
—Will Durant

Splayed up against the white tile wall,
I arch around the too hot flow of the shower head
to make proper adjustments,

and you appear—the way the dead often do.

Cold air slips in, and falls
between the shower curtains. Steam spools around my ankles, and I sense you.

We are nineteen again. I am skinny legs and wet hair.

The smell of tea tree oil and October
spilling through the window, and I am kissing you
with my hands in your wet beard.

My husband has a beard.
It is not the same.

You are a ghost.

I do not miss you in the way that former lovers do—privately
reminiscing about young sex; slippery,

scarless bodies holding themselves up so easily
in communal shower houses. Your shoulder
shielding my face.

I let the water pour over me.
There is so little left of each day to commune with the dead.


Do it to me dirty, Duende—put your Deus in my Machina.
I don’t have that much time.

Justification for laying against the cold ground with my eyes open
is at a minimum these days.

My husband and daughter are at the grocery store.

She is three and prefers that she be the one
to dry my back.

I dry myself
down to the soles of my feet. I think of pressing dirt against my face.

Unscrewing a small jar of homemade lip balm,
I remind myself what it is like to be alone.


I do not miss you in the way we wear the tattered t-shirts of our teen years to bed.
You are one of the visitors now,

and I wonder if you were lonely when you walked
barefoot toward the train tracks—if

you forgot your shoes, or abandoned them.

The ones who still knew you say you were laughing that day.
Making plans.

But each time the engine rattles by my windows, it seems so familiar.

The grinding soul below the shimmering yellow leaves,
and the slow screech signaling the inescapable halt—the machine exhaling

in the station across the street.

About Danielle Barnhart

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