Delmarva Review: Bodrum Hamam By Katherine Gekker

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Author’s note: “During a recent trip to Turkey, I visited a traditional hamam. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The tenderness and intimacy of the visit surprised me and reminded me of having my face washed by my parents, something I had not thought of in decades. It also brought back memories of seeing their arms crossed after their deaths.”

Steam echoes off blue and yellow
tiles, rivulets stream down walls.
Roof’s oculus opens to Turkey’s hot sky.

We have this round room to ourselves.
We dip ladles into heated pools, then tepid,
like a Finnish sauna but inside, in summer.

My feet appear, disappear in clouds,
our red-checkered pestemals like
keffiyeh, like Arafat wore, wet as puddles.

A man enters. I lie down. He folds my hands
over my heart. He washes me with huge
towel-covered hands, suds fly everywhere,

like blowing bubbles. He and I laugh.
Then he washes my face – no one
has ever washed my face except my parents.

I remember crossing my mother’s hands
over her chest after the end, seeing my
father’s hands crossed by someone else.

My bones sharp against the tiles,
all liquids have escaped me. I’ve
never been so thirsty or so clean.

We dress to the muezzin’s afternoon call
to prayer. Outside, I hear seagulls,
smell the Aegean, then the Baltic.

You take photos of me at the hamam entrance.
Later I notice how sunken, how hollow-cheeked
I look, everything sucked out of me.

 

Poet Katherine Gekker is the author of “In Search of Warm Breathing Things” (Glass Lyre Press, 2019). In addition to “Delmarva Review,” her poems have been published in “Little Patuxent Review,” “Broadkill Review,” “Poetry South,” “Apple Valley Review,” and others. She has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Some of her poems have been set to music, including a collection “…To Cast a Shadow Again,” by composer Eric Ewazen, and a seasonal cycle of poems, “Chasing the Moon Down,” by composer Carson Cooman. She was born in Washington, D.C. When not writing, she practices piano.

“Delmarva Review” publishes the best of original new poetry, nonfiction, and fiction selected from thousands of submissions annually by authors within the region and beyond. The independent, nonprofit literary journal is supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. The print edition is available at Mystery Loves Company, in Oxford, and Amazon.com. An electronic edition is also sold at Amazon.com. The website is DelmarvaReview.org.

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Letters to Editor

  1. I love the simplicity of this poem and how it unfolds to surprising depths, without being demanding. The poet allows us the opportunity to imagine the experience for ourselves, perhaps differently at several readings. Thank you for sharing Katherine Gekker’s poetry from the Delmarva Review.

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