by Mimi Moriarty

    Magic soap
    in little boxes
    on a rope
    wrapped in cellophane,
    the crisp-apple feel of a bar of soap.

    Sucking on soap
    cleanses lies from my tongue
    not where I'm supposed to be
    ___the movies instead of track
    Auburn Cave at midnight
    ___instead of Susan's sleep-over.

    A hot and steamy shower with
    a washcloth like rusted sandpaper
    scrubs the false front
    and back street lies
    I tell Papa,
    where I've been,

    I even lie about the box of Tide
    I carry in my purse
    for emergency cleansing
    ___self-inflicted oblations
    ___for late-night transgressions.

    When she was still here and
    strong enough to wash me
    next to godliness,
    she'd fill the soap dish twice a week
    make me squeeze the soap between
    my thighs, the scum remained
    like armor plate.

    Now the night slips
    through my trailer window
    the moon cradles an afterthought prayer
    I ask God to tell Mama I'm sorry
    for that last transgression
    ___snuck a dime from her purse
    ___lipstick from the bathroom sink
    ___dawdled on a street corner, vamped,
    ___while they napped after dinner
    and final soaping
    when I was strong enough
    to resist her demand
    for safety and cleanliness and confession.

    And now without her Clorox threat
    I stay indoors to fix his supper
    and later,
    my hands in soapy dishwater,
    I absolve myself.

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