In the latest issue:

In Quarantine

Erin Maglaque

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: Springtime for Donald

David Bromwich

Meetings with their Gods

Claire Hall

‘Generation Left’

William Davies

At the North Miami Museum: Alice Paalen Rahon

Mary Ann Caws

Buchan’s Banter

Christopher Tayler

‘American Dirt’

Christian Lorentzen

Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow

In Lahore

Tariq Ali


James Lasdun

Rereading Bowen

Tessa Hadley

At the Corner House

Rosemary Hill

William Gibson

Thomas Jones

Poem: ‘Murph & Me’

August Kleinzahler

The Stud File

Kevin Brazil

John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson

In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard

Diary: The Deborah Orr I Knew

Jenny Turner

The BathhouseHarry Clifton
Vol. 22 No. 10 · 18 May 2000

The Bathhouse

Harry Clifton

144 words

It still exists, the bathhouse
Where the young Augustine washed himself,
But now it is everywhere

And the waters of the spirit
All steam, make wraiths out of men
In Paris, Constantinople,

Mosques and hammam dens
Wherever they are. The pummellings, the rubdowns,
Towelled bodies stretched on slabs,

And tea, in little glasses,
Green and sugared, sweetening the hour
Of deep, corporeal peace.

And to go on from there
Into sainthood, what would be required?
Don’t tell me – supernatural fire

Beyond the melting points
Of the corpulent, in their catechumenate
Of almost-souls,

Their boiling sauna cabinet.
Talking, gossiping, all might be the fathers
Of Augustine, to this very day

Observing, in their sons,
‘The signs of active virility coming to life’,
Delighting in lines of likely descent

As the pre-baptismal waters
Rise around them – human, discredited now
In the centuries of the body.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences