Getting Naked

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 29, 2018

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Submitted: August 29, 2018

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getting naked

there were a few years where
I lived in a shack on the northside
of a steep coulee
halfway up the hill

it wasn't much at first
but a place that got me out of the rivertown that
I had been drinking myself down deep
too hard and too fast
down real low

below the bottom low
is a place 
only some of us 
have been

it was one of the first times
I tried to quit running

it would be the first of many

I was wasting away 
under the flickering neon streets

that scene had me 
like a lightbulb has a mayfly

I needed to be alone
and get my own shadow back

I was young then
and just needed a fresh start
somewhere to press the reset button
or I probably wouldn't have made it

so there I was
in a sturdy recycled structure
made of quarter-sawn timber
barn board siding and a corrugated metal roof
that had seen it's best days
but still kept most of the weather out

I had a black garbage bag of clothing
a manual typewriter 
and a .22 revovler my father gave me
"for snakes in the summer,
and woodchucks in the winter" 
he said

those days spent alone
held a completely different sense of time
and a shack on the side of a hill
built along an old logging road amongst the trees
can keep a mind busy
just trying to survive

within a week I knew I was where I needed to be

before too long
I had grown used to the routine
and settled into getting water from a springfed bathtub the old timers rigged up
years and years ago

I'd get five-gallon wire-handled buckets with lids
made from food grade plastic
at the food co-op for free
and a half dozen of them filled full
would sometimes last a few weeks

at first the wire handles and a full bucket
would dig into my fingers and leave purple
lines in my hands
after a season 
I didn't notice them at all

the first thing to go 
when you have to chop wood and carry water
is waste
every movement becomes
intentional
you get hurt alone in the woods
and things can go sideways fast
you get stupid alone 
and you could die

the second thing to go
is time
it is either day or night 
sunrise or sunset
the sun
the moon 
or somewhere in between
you find weather and temperature
are the ones that really play the tricks

the third and final thing to go
is vanity
almost immediately after getting my systems down
I put a galvanized tin pail filled 
with water I had already handled at least twice 
on to the woodstove 
stripped down naked
grabbed an empty coffee mug
a bar of soap
and a bath towel

when the water got hot enough
I'd grab it all and go outside
to a pallet I had levelled off next to my woodpile
a path of tree-bark stomped into the snow
from the door to the pallet

I'd set the bucket on a stump
hang my towel over a branch
and cup water over myself in little bursts of warmth
soaping up 
one area at a time
the whole time whisps of steam floating off
my wet skin

I remember that winter 
I saw more full moons
than I did people
so washing myself under the outstretched limbs
of trees and the sky beyond 
became little baptisms 
the ground around me white with snow
and peppered with animal tracks
the only witness
an occasional bird
or curious squirrel

it wasn't until I was naked and alone
that I was able to let everything go

the older I get
the harder it is to remember that


© Copyright 2018 peter engen. All rights reserved.

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