Alan Michael Parker

The God of the Bath Sojourns

Among the poor, his pockets inside-out,
One flip-flop in each hand,

His Hawaiian shirt misbuttoned,
The God of the Bath has been believed

To wander incognito—
Mournful, tear-stained, taciturn

As a god who has
No form can be. There is

Absolution, such rumors say.
There is a heaven.

On market day, on the Piazza del Convivio,
A chair is set for him,

A new Chianti glistening
In a transparent plastic cup:

He is said
To drink it up.

And in The Terrible Times, every seven years,
When the floodwaters rise above

The laundry on the lines;
Or when the rivers bake to fossil beds;

Or when the sea parts
Like fingers untangling,

Finished with their prayer,
And the clouds

Their heads,

He is said to ask forgiveness
Of the Desert God, the Gods

Of Marathons and Sweat.
He is said to bow

Beneath his shame. And once,
Say the people of the South,

In such a season of avalanche and eruption,
He was thought to seek refuge

In a simple room among us.
There, they say, he locked the door,

Ran the bath, lit one hundred candles,
And took comfort all alone:

Two wooden ships, three rubber sharks,
Tiny, tiny in his mighty hands.


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