Coming Out of the Shower

I shut my eyes under the scalding stream, 
                scrubbing off last night’s dream,
when suddenly I hear your voice again 
         as though it caught in the clogged drain

and was sent bubbling back up from the other 
                world where you’re not my mother.
This time, it’s really you. I’m really here. 
        I blink. We do not disappear.

Dad left, you say, to shower at the shop 
                so I don’t need to stop
just yet—and yet I do, unable to
         resume old customs, unlike you.

In a one-bath four-person household, we 
                learn what we mustn’t see,
growing, in time, so coolly intimate 
        with one another’s silhouette

behind the opaque frosted shower screen 
                that once more stands between
us two. While at the mirror you apply 
        foundation and concealer, I

wash out my hair with rosewater shampoo, 
                which means I’ll smell like you
all day. Mama, I shout, I’m coming out,
        and as you look away I knot

around me tight your lavender robe de chambre, 
                cinching my waist, and clamber
out of the tub, taking care not to step
         outside the cotton mat and drip

on the cracked floor you’ve polished with such zeal 
                we’re mirrored in each tile.
Yet, you’d forgive the spillage, or forget. 
        What else will you love me despite?

Excerpted from The Palace of Forty Pillars by Armen Davoudian. Published with permission from Tin House. Copyright © 2024 by Armen Davoudian. All Rights Reserved.