At the Hammam

the apartment by the tracks

that I rented from the dwarf

contained no shower

just a bucket of water

hanging in the courtyard

heated only by the sun

so on cloudy days

I frequented the hammam

where wiry cross-eyed Hamid

splashed bowl after bowl

of hot water on my head

worked up a lather

rubbed me with a rough mitt

and fashioned a long snake

from my dead skin

which he held up proudly

as if say see how dirty you were

then walking down my spine

he grabbed both arms and legs

and rocked me back and forth

like a heavy parcel

he was preparing to lift

until he heard a crack

and cried out with satisfaction

sahelik (or to your health)

a warm soak followed

and a wrapping of towels

as snugly as a mummy’s linens

they led me away to a room full of

comatose men

lying on mattresses

holding glasses of green tea

fingering their worry beads

sighing with the pleasure of it all

 

my new flat in the medina

sported a modern shower

and a French douche

small consolations indeed

for the lost comforts

of the hammam

 

(Originally published in Sukoon magazine)

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