Turkish Bath / Türkisches Bad

Antonia, Petulant at the Window, by Holly Day

Antonia, Petulant at the Window, by Holly Day

Translated from German by Karen Leeder

Heavenly Hammam: this is where the living are washed.
The dead could not be better cleansed. (I’d like to know).
Soaped from head to foot, fondly lathered and scrubbed,
Like a child by its mother. And these things a lifetime ago
To the body. The last time everything was done on its behalf.
Honest skin, you long for warmth but it’s the cool you relish.
The older you get the more unlikely you become, go on.
Under the knee
Of the masseur, on this polished marble slab, no fat escapes,
No fold of flesh, no birthmark, it is only thanks to the steam
That he does not see through the hairy rind, your exegete.
You come (see Marsyus) within an inch of being skinned
With the rough glove (kese). Our Osman has a heart of stone.
Kneading the dough of creation, beating you like a rug,
Is part of the routine, pure civility. But boy, it toughens you up!
For a long time, towel-wrapped roulade, you lie there half-asleep
Under the dome of the steam-bath — silently pray with your feet.

~ Durs Grünbein