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Hammam

Karen Shenfeld
From:   The Fertile Crescent. Toronto: Guernica, 2005.


An upturned bowl domes this deluged world.
Poured through a glass constellation, stray shafts
dissolve in steam, budding on marble, bared skin.
This, too, is a form of worship. I stand on
a precipice, drenched in songs, laughter, shouts.
Through a veil of mist, glimpse arms, legs,
thicketed pubic mound, a breast's sepia star.
For precious hours, the men are banished.
I pass under an archway, down hesitant steps,
seeking my place. Out of a moment's silence,
questions ring, bright as brass. Arabic vaporizing
into French. "D'ou etes-vous?" and "Comment
vous vous appellez?"
Questions and answers
that defy translation hang in fallen cumulus.
There are foreign exchanges the bankers
will never know. I release my will like sweat
through expanded pores. Prostrate myself
on stone. Hands gloved in camel's hair
slough the dead. Firm strokes charge my spine,
the trajectories of my limbs. We are in no hurry.
We have rituals to enact. She twists
open silver taps, dips a copper cup
to damp my flesh. And
I cannot stopper this flood of images. Of
how her eyes are robbed from the fennec,
her lips are stained with pomegranate,
her soaked hair flows like a startled wadi
after rain. She soaps me, her fingers
lingering on my nipples,
between my thighs. I stand so she can dry me.
We compare heights, shapes, shades, trade
the sharp syllables of our husbands' names.

I leave no more nor less than who I am.
Polished with almond oil, scented with rose.



Karen Shenfeld's works copyright © to the author.


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