Shippo scampers
Past,
Bare but for his
Tail,
Cub-innocent,
The stupid ring with
A duck's head
On it
That Kagome
Gave him
Around his
Waist-
Heading for
The river
Down the
Hill.

Kid's stuff!

He joins the
Girls where
A hot spring
An onsen,
Rises-
There's a
Shriek,
A splash,
Followed by
Shippo
Trying to
Get
Kagomi and
Sango
To play
With him.

You look away.

Miroku sends
You a sly
Glance,
Holds up
A hand,
Says something
Pious
While looking
At what
He's not
Supposed to.

Typical!

You're
Too old
To join them-
You don't fancy
A head massage
From a
Girl-tossed
Rock
If you
Tried…


No,
You shift
On your heels,
Grumbling,
It's more
Than
That…

A firefly drifts past…

You don't
Want to
Go through
What happened
The first and last
Time
Your mother
Took you
To a hot spring
An onsen,
One winter…


A pilgrimage
Into the hills
With the
Fine ladies,
Small
Children,
And their
Nursemaids…

The firefly is joined by others.

Though small,
You understood
The sudden silence,
No more giggles,
No more soft talk
As your mother
Led you by the
Hand to the
Water's edge.
She stepped in-
Coaxing
You to follow…


Stares,
Whispers.
It was snowing.



She'd scrubbed
You down,
Before she
Brought
You this far,
Still, there
Were
Murmurs,
Titters,
Then the
Others,
The fine ladies,
The children,
And their
Nursemaids,
Left the
Pool
As one.



You crouch,
Silent-
Fireflies
Dancing
About you
In the
Blue
Twilight,
Listening
To Shippo
Splash, telling
Fox jokes-
The girls
Giggling-
Knowing
You'll never
Join them.



It's not
Because you're
Too old to
Be bathing
With girls
Who aren't
Your sisters…


You never
Want to hear,
"Ewwww, wet dog!"


…ever again.