The Great Plotnik

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Same Hamam as Billy Collins

It being Poetry Friday, it is proper to point out that the above photo of an intinerant rug merchant in Istanbul was taken in the same Turkish bathhouse (hamam) that is mentioned in the Billy Collins poem 'Istanbul'(from the collection Nine Horses). On a Friday night, the Muslim holy night when the body must be thoroughly cleansed, the merchant and his family scoured the dark streets of the old city until they found the hamam.

Collins writes:

'And it was a pleasure to drink
cold wine by a low wood fire
before being directed to a small room in an upper gallery,
a room with a carpet and a narrow bed
where I folded my clothes into a pile
then came back down, naked
except for a gauzy striped cloth tucked around my waist...'

Observe above gauzy striped cloth.

Collins writes:

'I felt like the last of the sultans
when the man returned and began to scrub me
to lather and douse me
scour and shampoo me
and splash my drenched body
with fresh warm water
scooped from a marble basin.'

Ah, the rug merchant remembers. He also remembers the pummeling he got from Abdul, the Turk assigned to rearrange the merchant's muscles and internal organs. Why don't we just take this arm here and put it down next to this leg here? He remembers fresh-squeezed orange juice and hot, sweet tea. He remembers feeling as wonderfully cleansed (see above otherworldly grin) as he has ever felt in his entire life. He remembers the shish kabobs and eggplant salads and warm Turkish bread that followed.

Billy Collins probably went out to dinner afterwards too. Collins finishes his poem by saying, and The Great Plotnik echoes:

'I thanked everyone whose job
it ever was to lay hands
on the skin of strangers,
and I gave general thanks that I was lying
facedown in a warm puddle of soap
and not a warm puddle of blood
in some corner of this
incomprehensible city.'


At 3:26 PM, Blogger mary ann said...

This is such a lovely post
with you and Billy and
your memories. Thanks...

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is that ADORABLE creature in the gauzy blue stripes, pray tell? And very sexy, too!

At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

father mohammednik, that is THE most ridiculous picture i have seen in quite some time!


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