Turkish Bath

Julia Darling

can I suggest
we take our towels
down to those curtained rooms
beneath the municipal
city baths

where the blue water
slops heavy above
in bright chlorine blue
but down there it's ochre
snug and frowsty
as blankets

your skin can safely
open all its pores
we will take off our rings
and belts and buckles
and lie in those small
velvet rooms for ladies
who like to rest
in the afternoon

pink and pumiced
we can be quiet as eggs
together in that steamy
labyrinth

like courtesans
waiting, dreaming
and awake

bare feet in the corridors
gossip of intimates
soft wet marble

salt lick



Julia Darling, National Poetry Day 2004

Ellen Phethean explains why she chose this poem, by her Diamond Twig co-founder Julia Darling for August:

"It's that sultry time of year when lots of people are in holiday mode, and generally wearing less clothes, so I thought I'd revisit one of Julia's lovely poems about the Turkish Bath. Occasionally a few of us would get together down there, in the days when a friendly assistant would poach you an egg and bring it to you as you lay in your cubicle. Julia always reckoned a bath was the way to relax.
This is an earlier version (she wrote two called Turkish Bath, the other is in Sudden Collapses In Public Places) slightly more risqué, from Sauce. It is interesting to compare them - I'm sure it won't be long before Julia is the subject of a PhD.

 

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Turkish Bath was first published in Sauce (Diamond Twig / Bloodaxe, 1994)
© 1994 Julia Darling: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.
Photograph of Julia Darling, wearing her Mongolian hat, © Roger Cornwell, 2004.