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After Hours in Chinatown
by Kristin Roedell

The spa was down an alleyway, with
chipped green doors and frosted glass.
The stylists took the Metro 6
and left their tools in jars of bleach;
the real room was behind the shop.

There women, small and tightly coiffed,
went nude or draped in satin robes
while steam poured out from everything:
caves of drains, and trees of showers
basins of lakes and spigot streams.
That place was a country of its own.

I left my clothes on a lacquered bench.
The ladies peered from cornered eyes
at spidered breasts and  salmon thighs.
They formed in flocks like birds and
raised their brows in parted wings,

but an old attendant touched my hand.
She  laid me down beside a sink,
and lathered me with myrtle soap,
she scrubbed me with a bristle brush
but didn’t speak, just wiped her brow

as if up to her ancient thighs
she stood in mirrored pools with
slanted sun and fields of rice.
She washed me like a child until

I’d never lied, or misused love.

First published by Flutter


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