The Arty Semite

Getting Out of the Roman Bath: Poetry by Susan Comninos

By Jake Marmer

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This week we’re pleased to feature a poem by Susan Comninos, “Rome Visits When I’m in the Bath.” The poem is a bit of a maze. On the surface there’s the juxtaposition of Jewish and Christian identities, but then more layers begin to emerge. Do the two identities refer to different modes of inspiration, to routes through which the free-associative mind travels? Or is it about the unavoidable assimilation and intrusion that comes as “dull” banging? Then again, contemplating the two religions, the author finds herself in the bath — a long-standing symbol of Roman wealth and leisure. The poem’s language is twisted and elusive but that, perhaps, is the point: The poet’s meanings cannot be, as it were, nailed down.

Susan Comninos’s poetry has appeared in TriQuarterly Online, the Forward, Quarterly West, Lilith, Tikkun and “The Blueline Anthology” (Syracuse University Press, 2004), among other publications. Last year she won Tablet Magazine’s Yehuda Halevi Poetry Contest.

Rome Visits When I’m in the Bath

knocking or nailing?
—a crucifix at the door,
or hammer
from the flat
below? what a thought
for a girl
who plans to hang
mezuzahs by the bed,
dangle instruments
of tenor, or better:
rim the door
with artifact. That’s
all; no more
to confess. Yet, hear
the lush
loud banging, trite
as terror, as the bore
of a Roman sword; heavy
and dull as a wooden
tale: immense—
and just as leaden.


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