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Cağaloğlu


From a cistern in the dome the daylight drips
                      While the calls to prayer
           From the quarter's seven minarets—
Overlapping tape loops of Submission—slip
           Down through the arching crescent lunettes
                      Cut into the air
As if the vault itself had loosened its grip.

I am on my back, listening to the tattoo
                      Of clogs crisscrossing
           The sopping white marble floor inlaid
With veins of still darker matters to pursue.
           A skittish gleam accents, like eyeshade,
                      A fountain's boss in
The corner alcove, where hot and cold make do

In a basin Tony Curtis and Franz Liszt
                      Both stared into once.
           (Stardom is a predictable fate:
The point is forgotten but somehow still missed.)
           Gods, whenever they annunciate,
                      Long for the romance
That ironclad heroes peering through the mist

Or mousy adolescent girls both provide.
                      The same unlikely
           Places—a battlefield or grotto—
Are returned to, while again the hollow-eyed
           Ogle in flagrante devoto
                      And obey, shyly,
The scrambled revelations so true-and-tried.

Congestive, crotch-scented vapor has congealed
                      Into beads that skid
           Along suction-knots and shadow-ends
Abutting my slab. Eager for an ordeal
           The illustrated brochure commends
                      As a bath to rid
The body of its filth both real and unreal,

I have bought their boast, "We make you feel reborn,"
                      For fifty euros.
           Pinched and idly gestured toward a plinth
Two centuries of customers have careworn
           To a shallow trough not quite my length,
                      I'm forced to burrow
Into a pose much more flagellant than faun.

The sodden towel is too heavy now to hold
                      Itself across me—
           And there is the pasha's bay window,
The shriveled bulblet, the whole ill-shaped scaffold
           Of surplus fact and innuendo,
                      From arthritic scree
To the congenital heart flutter's toehold.

The attendant walks up and down on my back,
                      Pacing the problem,
           Then plucks, then mauls, then applies a foam
He scrubs in until it causes an attack
           Of radiance, the world's palindrome
                      Suddenly solemn,
Suddenly seeming to surrender its knack

For never allowing us simply to want
                      What we already
           Have, or are, or perhaps could have been.
His hand-signal to get up seems like a taunt.
           I lie there, my fist under my chin,
                      Senses unsteady,
Something gradually, like a tiny font,

Coming into focus. I sit up and start
                      To notice small bits
           Of grit when I run my hand over
My chest. But wasn't this debris the chief part
           Of the package deal? The makeover
                      And its benefits?
In the fog I can't really see what trademark

Schmutz the Oriental Luxury Service
                      Has failed to wash off.
           So I put it in my mouth and taste
Two dank gobbets—salty, glairy, and grayish—
           I should have recognized as the waste
                      That was my old self,
A loofah having scraped it from each crevice

And bulge, from every salacious thought and deed.
                      Every good one too.
           It is the past, not just what is wrong,
It is the embarrassments we still breast-feed,
           That we absentmindedly so long
                      To shed. A new you,
Oneself an innate second person succeeds.

How do the saints feel when they fall to their knees,
                      God coming to light?
           Less ecstatic than ashamed, I fear,
Of bodies never worthy of being seized.
           Encumbered by the weight of a tear,
                      In hopeless hindsight
They see all that the flesh can never appease,

All that the flesh is obliged to mortify.
                      Here I am, laid out,
           Looking up to where nothing appears,
Hardly wondering why nothing satisfies
           And yet saddened that it's all so clear.
                      Tulip waterspouts
Trickle. Reservoirs deep underground reply.


J. D. McClatchy

Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems
Alfred A. Knopf


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