Conversations in a Sauna – Dubai and Enfield

I relax into the hot air,
heat needle-pricks  my skin,
there’s the scent of hot wood
on each careful, slow, breath.
The coals are singing
Touch me. Touch me.
Frightened, I open my eyes.
A small, thin man
is now here liquefying,
shape-shifting into a thick pool
that encircles his feet.
I see my face in the dark mirror
that shimmers with each drop.
He watches me, talks of

growing up in Ireland with
horses and racing, how he’s
always had to lose weight.
His race group in Belgium failed
so now he rides in Arabia
chasing gold from State to State but
wants to ride Pegasus through the sun.

I’m not allowed to speak to you.
His voice was like his thin white body
floating above the top bench.
I supposed he was American Military
and probably felt safe there,
I can’t remember what we talked of.
Perhaps I didn’t listen, nor he.

I might have spoken of the Lee Enfield,
the best and most famous rifle
made at the end of Ordnance Road
near Government Row now a mnemonic for
the Royal Small Arms Factory which
once employed more than two thousand.
Weapons were made here for Henry VIII.

Mortars, muskets, swords, the Bren gun
whose choleric chatterings I heard
as I walked the high street four miles away.
Now, it’s two thousand homes, with
Chinese restaurant, dry cleaners and Tesco.
There’s a gym full of shining machines
worked by muscular, sweating men.

In its sauna I sat with a man
whose genitals were clasped
in a silver ring as thick as my finger –
a contemporary acolyte for Cybele.
He said it was slow, difficult, painful.
Surely it must burn in the heat of the sauna
cauterising the invisible wound.

© Anthony Fisher August 2010

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