Here is bare woman.  Hair pulled back.  Her face newly-washed.  She sees Venus, with one arm reaching toward heaven, take shape in the bubble bath.  A pointed‑toe shoe.  She rubs her body with the rough towel, briskly around her ears, to the back of the neck, between the breasts and under them.  Here is bare woman  learning to be brave in silence, looking for a new way.  A voice talks to her in the tub saying, “ritual gives form.”  She wants to expand it to “Form defines meaning.”  It is a natural habit to complexify, a habit she has taken on from her world.  But she reminds herself, “The new way is not a way.”  She is learning which voices to ignore, to know when she is veering off the path which is truly her own.

She is digging down through the layers of her life, searching for the pulse which is steady, which can be sustained and is sustaining.  Her solar plexus like the vegetable garden she is trying to create outside her kitchen door, she unearths bulbs from other seasons, chunks of cement, the fierce roots of a thousand  weeds.  She works carefully with a Zen attention.  Pulling her ribs open to ease the breath.Shin is a whisper in the room.  Spirit.  Here is bare woman digging into her life, into the flesh of her soul.  Her fingers rubbing needlepoint flowers, learning the way she knows how to, through feeling, by touch.  She places her fingertips on her lips in a very deep quiet.  New leaves, folded closely on the freshness of their life take shape on the rose bushes she has just brought home.  Here is bare woman, looking for a woman’s way.  Do means way.  Here is bare woman without make‑up or high heels, unsure of the books she has read.

She sees herself dressed in white.  Cleansed of the men she has known.  It is a cleansing she does not know how to accomplish, except through the constant vigilant seeing of it.  She wants to bless the moist muscle of her whole being, to take it back from all the wrongful hands who have touched her without seeing.  She wants to give a soft circular motion back to her hands, to treat them as more precious than gold, to chose carefully what she puts her hands to.

She wants to rub the calluses from her feet, to undo them of the bitter burning of Caesar’s path, which they have had to harden themselves to.  She touches the place where she imagines the ovaries might be,  folding her legs in half lotus in her desk chair, and scratches the hollow of her cheek.  She pushes firmly on the solar plexus point, opening up to her life.  She prepares to make that her religion.

She finds herself in the same world that you and I occupy.  The common one.  The one where the pursuit of a biodegradable cleaner is sometimes our high act for the day.  The world with cat stains on the carpet and children with a greenish‑colored snot.  The world which has taught us deadly habits, to clean and order the life out of our lives.  The one which has taught us to wait until the children are sleeping, until the dishes are washed, until the laundry is folded, until our husbands are out of town, until the bread is baked, the yard is weeded, until everything is finished and there is nothing left to do, before we find a way to bring ourselves into the way we are living our lives.  The world which has taught us to be afraid to confront the silence, the bare space between our hip bones, the emptiness we feel when the men and children are gone and there is nothing to clean.

She begins to see her feet as sacred and to be careful where she steps.  She holds her hands in the little Zen circle she has learned, a twinge pricking the lower chamber of her heart, and has someone take a photograph so she can remember herself.  She is determined to stop squandering her life.

She challenges the world for her right to open the curtains on what she is really doing here, gathering pebbles for her vision of a large stone wall.  She challenges the world for her right to open the curtains on the life she is really living, where some days she weeps and cannot make the carrot juice she is committed to drinking. She dances across the room in an old pattern that is different now.

Here is bare woman.  Her life pared down on purpose, in order to be rid of the distractions which prevent her from living her life, bereft of men and children and sinks to clean. She fingers her way to the center of the bloom, letting her hands tell her what is true: the vibration of red, the necessity of texture.  Learning to appreciate the rough places on her face.

Sometimes she wants to line the symbols of her life across the floor, the feathers and lace, to touch them one by one in order to teach herself who she is.  Small green stones placed in a circle of sand.  Hot pink fans.  Pear decals and floral paper.  There is nourishment ‑ and fire she must relearn.  She lets her belly be as round as it is capable of being and contemplates fullness.  She puts away the music that men have given her and confronts the silence.  The palm frond outside her window inaudible in its motion. She learns to go within to find authority.

Here is bare woman.  No paint upon her face.  Nothing to hide behind.  Unmasked.  Revealed and revealing.  Weary of deceptions and distractions, looking for the revelation of her life.  She uses scents to hold her where others’ arms have failed, breathing in the musk she rubs on her wrist.  Her room smoky with sage.

She walks the alleys of her life looking at the piles of garbage, empty flower pots stacked against fences, worn blankets crumpled in cans, blackened soup pots stuffed in boxes,  last year’s city directories blowing open in the breeze.  Here is bare woman trying to re‑find her own rhythm, fingers to her wrist hoping to feel pulse.  Recognition gives authority, she says, squinting her eyes, hoping to see herself.

Here is bare woman.  She weeps because life is too precious to touch, and she lives through her hands.  She fingers her beads.  She aspires to the greatness in the day‑to‑day, to the divine in the dishwater, the eternal in the cat fur, the transcendence of her own hair.

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