The Bath in Poltergeist

No doubt it is well-earned, after diving through the vortex
to rescue her child from the light that ends earthly existence,
then returning through a break in the ceiling — a pietà
in a robe of gelatinous red. Still, her bath, Calgon-innocent,
seems mundane, as though she's merely sloughing off a day
full of housework, spilled Kool-Aid, scorched Eggos —
not the invasion of the house by restless spirits who have
entered through some unattended pixels in the den.

The suds around her sigh. Her babies, safe in bed. Belied
by the low roar of always one thing more: as earthquakes
need their aftershock, and childbirth, with its whorls of pain,
is followed by the afterbirth, the pressing down on that
still-panting open jar. Hence, the eerie ooze of light below
the children's door as she blow-dries her feathered hair,
coed-cute in football jersey, and the bath becomes laughable
as cereal and Fisher-Price; all the sure plastic of her world
spins in the air, and down the split-level hall, her talcum trail
connects the tooth of the tub to the larger, throbbing organs of the house.

by Ellen McGrath Smith

previous scene next scene

Poetry at the Movies