Bath Night

Mother helps us wrap our hair
in towels like Queens of Sheba.
She strides the shag carpet in her pin curls
and drifting cigarette.
Towels belong in the bathroom
or down the laundry chute.
We half-dry.
The clean scent of softener on our pajamas,
flouncy baby dolls with elastic leg ruffles,
some slinky, newfangled fabric.
We tip over in a pile of girl
with our damp skin, legs and downy arms,
long necks with our hair pulled up.
Mother hands us hairbrushes,
watches as we pull at our scalps.
Father, outnumbered, works late.
I know the patterns of both my sisters' tan lines,
their nipples neat as coins.
Our mother reads us One Eye, Two Eyes, and Three Eyes.
Two Eyes is supposed to be the heroine,
but Three Eyes uncovers the truth.
Only two eyes close.
The third eye is curious.
"Vaginas need air," says mother, switching off the light.
We kick off our pajama bottoms,
feel the night air between our legs.
She kisses us goodnight,
glancing kisses with her dry lips.
Mother smells of Viceroy and Dippity-do.
We imagine the ecosystem of our private parts,
part eye, part channel to a hidden chamber.

Tori Grant Welhouse’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Two Hawks Quarterly, Conclave Journal, Stirring, and New Poetry from the Midwest. Her poems also appear in Spectral Lines: Poems about Scientists and 50/50: Poems and Translations by Womxn over 50. She published a chapbook Canned with Finishing Line Press (2014) and independently published Stashed: A Primer in Lunch Poems (2019). She is an active volunteer with Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and lives in Green Bay. More at