Bath I (Cairo)

p
o
e
m
s

It rained every day.
Cairo was rib-dry, glass-eye-dry
but every night in my dreams we drowned.

The bathtub was stone. Set in the middle of
a tile floor. Verdigris. Verdant. Moss in the cracks.
Ancient pharaohs bathed with less abandon

than you. Head back. Wet throat.
Skin to stone. Outside the city simmered with heat. Inside,
you grew like a fish.

We drank our coffee thick and sheer.
We were naked as stones, arguing like birds about
nothing, meaning nothing, just

preparing for flight. Just Turkish coffee and
sun. The yellow dogs swaying their ribs. You fed
them bread. And the long sweet slant of your wrist.

I thought: We will pay for this.
Someone will charge us day by day. A
price for exuberance. I went out.

Dust in my lips, in my ears.
Flat and saltless, like unleavened bread. I
walked and waited for the flood.

The locusts. The plagues. The pharaohs,
long-dead and staggering over the sands from beyond. But
no gods showed up to punish us.

A year passed. I came to you again.
Same heat, same dust, awake or asleep
everything is mirage.

We sat in your car and the engine ran.
Even the air between us ached.
I thought: here is the price come to our door at last,

but I knew it was no curse. We’re not so special.
Just a story so old it has escaped its meaning:
How things of one fabric fall to pieces.

Your engine idled and I dreamed wide
and blind that I ran you a bath.
Your skin grew scales. We swam together.

We had fish-language, based in water.
When it rained, our language grew.

Jen Silverman is a playwright and writer based in New York.

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