BATHHOUSE AT MIDDAY

Walking through my next-door swamp

One cloudy noon

A small structure never seen

Appears in the gloom

Wood, blending in with the Live Oaks

But there’s a door

And a hose-like shower

A ‘Bania’? Bathhouse?

The Slavic DNA in me

Tingles

And I remember Gran’s stories

About meeting fairies and yes,

Demons to beware

In the Bathhouse at Midnight

So no, not adventurous enough

To do a midnight romp

But now the gloom gives way

And it is midday

Twelve hours before magical time

Looking at the sky

Sun bright and high

Twelve post meridiem

No shadows to see

Why engage in word play

It’s my eclectic bent

New magical way

What will happen, I wonder

If I enter this bathhouse at

Midday?

This is the threshold

To the other world

I recall

Moving toward the hose

I trip and fall

And my eyes close for a moment

Suddenly a little old man appears

The ‘Bannik’

I greet him respectfully

Give him a gift of coins dowsed

With the almost-finest vodka

And ask him to help me with

Continued health

“Do you need protection from the

‘Triasavitsy’

Herod’s Daughters number twelve

Each fever demon is

Responsible for a different illness

Is it measles? Small pox?”

More like Covid19 says I

And he, a quasi-divinity

Peers at me from another

Century

People then fought diseases now under control

“Do you have the faceless dolls of

Herod’s Daughters?

If not, bake 12 pies and leave them at the

Crossroads

MIDNIGHT! Do this at MIDNIGHT!”

Shouts he

And I open my eyes

Blinking at the empty ‘Bania’

Standing up shakily

And, I confess, getting the hell out of there

Back to my safe haven

Of dogs and plastic flamingos

Resin statues and even Roomie

Cutting the grass

While the cardinals call each other

And sanity

Such as it is

Reigns…

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© 2022 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Herod’s Daughters, St. Petersburg Ethnographic Museum