Vladimir brought the sponge to the bath,
where his infirm mistress sat, soaking
with the water and the salts. He knew
she wouldn't want his help,
so after he handed over the sponge, he sat
on the stool next to the clawfoot tub,
and resumed the reading he'd begun
before his errand: "It was about
two o'clock in the day, and I was forced
to remain broiling in the sun without
either tree, shrub, or any other shade
to shield me from its scorching rays,
until night, when Dick (the cook)
came in with the camels."
The lantern gives weak, warm light.
Irena moves her body to wash her arms
and shoulders. Sound of water splashing
on the gunnels of the tub accompanies
Vladimir's voice. They do not speak
about what will become of the horses,
nor of the trees, the furniture, the heirloom silver.
"The wind blew as is usual in the night,"
Vladimir reads aloud. Irena, in the tub,
can feel the water's warmth ebbing away.