The Only Place By Linda Hasselstrom

The only place a woman can go to be alone
is the bathroom.
A woman would like to be wrapped in strong arms
when she cries, without having to explain,
or huddle on the couch wrapped in a blanket and a cat.
But all over America, women crouch instead
on a white, cold monument to wasting water.
We lean against a chilled tile wall,
stare at ourselves in an icy mirror,
flush the toilet to cover howls and curses,
brush our teeth twice to cover the taste of anger.
We lock the door, fill the tub with hot bubbles,
take a long time shaving our legs and armpits,
study the way waves break over bulging stomachs.
We scour the sink and rearrange the bottles under it,
refold towels, throw away old prescriptions,
count bandaids and bottles of suntan lotion.
We turn out the lights, stare into candle flames,
light incense, try to pretend we’ve taken our troubles
to a glowing temple, placed them in the lap
of a smiling golden Goddess.

Outside, men who
wouldn’t know what to do
if a woman curled up
in bed and cried
can relax before
bloodless images on
TV
and think, “She’s only
in the bathroom
doing some woman’s
thing.”
Behind a locked door,
a woman
spins the empty toilet
paper roll
like a Tibetan prayer
wheel,
chanting “Help me,
help me, help me.”