House Rules for Massage Therapists, Loretta Marie Long

Feel of Autumn, Romona Youngquist, 24 X 12, Oil


House Rules for Massage Therapists
Always bring your license with you. Hang it in the window
inside the pretty frame supplied to every room.
Before he gets there, spread clean sheets across the table
misted with lavender and rosemary. Clear uninvited
spirits from the room by smudging sage in figure eights
swirled through the warm air. Introduce yourself.
Use a firm handshake, a soft smile.
Wait patiently for him to speak and then,
ask him to undress to comfort level
while you wait outside the door.
Wash hands for thirty breaths, clip fingernails, and tie your hair back.
It must not swing against his body when you lean down
to hear him breathing. Rub cornmeal across your
elbows to soften leathery wrinkles, and remember,
when he says he wants to marry you,
he is only in love with your hands.
Say a prayer before you touch his arms or thighs.
Remind yourself, you are not Jesus.
Do not allow you or your client to leave your bodies. If you
feel yourself lifting away, clap your hands together three times.
Remember two things: You are not a healer. If he asks
you for a blow job, tell him, “no,” even if he offers you a lot of money.
Always be professional. Do not talk about your sewing or your pets.
Do not talk about your child’s health problems.
Do not talk about your boyfriend. If he asks
you for a hand job, say “no.” Do not diagnose illnesses.
Never tell anyone you are a healer. If you do,
very bad things will happen to both of you.
Remember, stay up to date on chart notes. Do not transform chart
notes into love letters for handsome referring doctors,
to avoid accusations of trying to jump a class.
Do not stay up late worrying about your patient’s
back pain. Do not invite him to your house for
dinner or let him bring you flowers.
Instead, remember the body is a short-lived vacation
for lost souls. Knead muscles along his spine, thumbs reshaping
a month’s worth of body stories, palm heels
moving sand hills over bones. Imagine Jesus is helping you.
As wrists and knuckles speak quietly to muscles,
hearing what must never be told, call Jesus,
call Siva, call Nataraj, call Saraswati. Chant their names silently,
illuminating your hands with their light.

Loretta Marie Long

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