The Panther Press

The Student News Site of San Domenico

The Panther Press

The Panther Press

Poem: Existentialism In the Bathtub

Zhalet (Nyx) Baharestan
“Woman Drowned” – Underglaze on Ceramic

I know nothing.

I own nothing.

I came from nothing and I will return to nothing. 

This is my meaning of life 

At 1:37 AM on Sunday, January 1st, 2023


Hours before

I lie,


Submerged and weightless in the bathtub

I am spared from darkness 

By candlelight.


My skin begins to soften from the water

Clawing my fingernails across my skin,

I peel off little layers of myself

I wonder,

If I soak and scrape long enough, 

If I will disintegrate into the water,

Like a viscous, melted bowl of cells.

I am content with my future as 

primordial sludge 


But how rich am I? Are we?

To have taken a breath

To be taking one now

To hold the potential to take another.

We are wealthy by way of 

Senses and substance.


Life is richness;

Though death 

Is not poorness.

They are not opposites 

Like the flame of my candle is to the drop of bath water

Instead, like two lovers, a pair—

Me and the sludge.


We condemn them to cages:

Life: good, success, meaning—


Death: bad, sinful, pointless—


Dying, the absence of life. 


The second we are alive, we are destined to die.

Everything is life and death,

our only two constants

In our lonely experience


For the longest time, 

Death has been a still heart, failed organs, 

a future of eternal darkness 

behind closed eyelids.

For the first time,

Death is a picture of me as a child:

A captured moment

I cannot remember living


In this way, by growth 

And the passing of time,

The loss of our memories—

We are constantly dying. 


It seems unnatural to ignore death

To push it away and demand life.

Live! Live! Live! 

“You should not wish to die!”, they say

I do not wish, I accept 

that part of me is already dead

Like the breath I have just taken—it is past

Like the child in the photo 

Who is no longer me


I accept that I am dying,

The feeling of wet hair on the back of my neck,

The small ovals of skin cells I’ve scraped off my thighs,

The death of a moment—like the breath I am taking.


I accept that I will experience more death,

Growing older, speaking to my parents for the last time,

That I will inevitably forget it all—  

The breath I have yet to take.


I blow out the candles.

It is dark

But…  it is not nothing.

I take a breath

I am alive 

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Zhalet (Nyx) Baharestan

Zhalet Baharestan is a junior at San Domenico and a contributor for The Panther Press. They are an Iranian-American who is passionate about art, self expression, and social justice.

Comments (1)

All The Panther Press Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    Abigail WaldApr 7, 2024 at 2:02 pm

    Wow. This is so beautiful and so wise. Thank you for giving words to that moment so it can live on.