Poem Reading: It Was a Place in Need of Warmth (2016 Poetry Contest Finalist)

WILDsound Writing Festival made a call to submit to a poetry contest. They accepted poetry in any genre or length that’s about YEAR 2016 in any way. Reflecting on global events, I penned down words I hope will contribute towards acceptance and nurturing of human diversity. The poem made it to the finalists list.

The reading was performed by actress Val Cole.



The woman stood up and said,
please come inside the hammam
if you want to hear a story
amongst naked skins of all races.

Before serving you my special tea,
she said, I’ll scrub away the dead cells
blocking the pores of humanity
thus smearing your skin with prejudice.

But before we start, she said,
I want you to know that 2016
is not without preceding years.
There was 1260 and 1620.

Wealth and poverty met here.
The hammam was and still is
for people from all backgrounds.
Everyone needs a cleansing from life.

The stones here won’t choose
neither will the scrubbing hands.
The hammam rituals don’t know identity.
Black soap, white salts, brown oils
they make all skins soft –
like baby bottom.

Do you know, she said,
the pleasure of bathing is not national.
Tell me of a country which doesn’t want it.
Everyone wants order and cleanliness.
Even the chaotic ones need the freedom of
space for their organised disorderliness.

You can come here weekly or monthly
then return to your chaos or orderliness.
My hands won’t choose your background,
race, religion or the love you worship.
You’ll be a human in need of a cleansing.

In 2016 my hands itched often, she said.
I wanted to share the concept of the hammam.
I wanted to scrub anyone who feared another.
I wanted to bathe them like a mother.
I wanted to cover them with warmth.
Maybe they would remember what love is.

We were born naked and screaming
until somebody touched us with care.
I don’t know why we insult each other
with cold reasons of race and beliefs.
Can’t we all be a place of warmth?

Now I’ll serve you my special tea.
You can lie down and relax
while I bathe the next person.
I hope you had a caring year
and if not, she said,
make this next year so.

Copyright © 2017, Gloria D. Gonsalves. All rights reserved.

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