Ritual with Seven Selves

The washer fills like a well, and she casts
them in again, delicates zipped into netted bags,
buttons threaded through their loops.
Cold waters purl and rise, bubbles frothing
like spells. The safety latch long broken,
she watches her selves slosh, each one rising up,
then drowning again. Red dress, red dress
of a goose-bumped night and an endless goblet
of wine that made her spill all her best lines
like scarves from the jester’s sleeve. Dark hands
reach up from the well’s underside. Float
of sweater, its noose of a neck that held her head
in place, her heavy tongue. Her mouth
was a broken bell that day. Cloak worn against
the rain when she went walking in the woods,
the trees wet-barked and no pebbles dropped
to lead her home. Jeans, too, mud-cuffed
and stretched beyond shape. Backless top
in which she swallowed mushrooms with milk.
Mermaids filled the sink, their scales coarse as salt,
and wolves came to the door and knocked.
Flash of diaphanous legs amid the many haggard
sleeves—stockings ripped by the charcoal cat
she keeps. Nightgown, last, of turbulent dreams,
of a poisoned Red Delicious and spindles that spin
a girl to sleep. She leans her head and breathes.
Let the waters ravage each seam. Let every sock
be a step in reverse, every stripe the sure hand
of a clock. Let the basket spin to oblivion,
the water’s last drop flung free, the well run clean.  end