Unwash Me in Front of My Grandfather

Tammy Robacker


Pull the washcloth out
of this small dirty place.
Unclean my pits.

Unrub my thighs. Mother, 
drag this all back 
through milky time

and up the cold tub-side.
Back to mid air. Suspend it
there. Leave me unfoamed. 

Get me unwet. Hold me 
dry, placed in your lap. Then
lift me high. Toward the light.

Unnuded. Refolded. Perfect 
and clean. Fresh backward
toward the linen closet.

Stop the water now,
from running over me.
Use both handles. 

Turn them off. 
Turn him off.
Turn this back.


"We cannot undo what has been done. Many of us who have suffered an abuse or trauma within our family dynamic, go back to that trauma over and over in our minds and want to wish it away. You always wonder what you would have been like if it never had happened to you. In this poem, I wanted to use early, fragmented memories of a bathtub trauma to create an undoing of it. To go back, way back, until I was free of it. To be able to write myself out was a way to transform the injury into something sacred: A poem."

Tammy Robacker served as Poet Laureate of Tacoma, WA in 2010-11 and she is a 2011 Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence award winner. In 2009, she published her first collection of poetry, The Vicissitudes. Tammy's poetry has appeared in So to Speak, Crab Creek Review, WomenArts, Comstock Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Columbia Magazine, and The Allegheny Review. Currently enrolled in the MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, Tammy is working on a second poetry collection and lives in Oregon. Visit the poet at tammyrobacker.com

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