Lady of secular ablutions,
I know your water
Is only water,
And that is enough.
I know your water is holy
As it pours from your tipped pitcher,
Holier when it washes dusty feet,
And holiest forever when it cleans a wound.
I have breathed humidified air above your springs.
I have dipped a cupped palm in your tiniest eddies
And drawn all-healing mouthfuls toward my lips.
I have watched as your unstopped prismatic streams
Combined their infinite droplets into medicines.
And I have heard how you drench Bath devoutly.
These are the ways I know you keep your promises.
You never fail to prove yourself to me.
I call you now to ask if it is you
Who presses a watery hip against America,
Sluices an arm into the Chesapeake,
And lays a liquid hand on Baltimore.
I have felt you near.
I had not known your reach to be this long.
I had not known you were powerful enough
To regulate the Atlantic’s tides and currents,
To lift and suspend the hefty bay at its shifting levels,
Or to exhale such coarse mist as this which scours our city.
I had not known how healthy you could make me!
Have you come this far, O lady of gentle scrubbing,
To remind me again and again how little I know,
How little I need to know, how little is knowable?
I have leaned on a fluent breast that must be yours.
Not weary for having traveled the long whale-roads,
Not awkward for having landed on unfamiliar shores,
Not thin for having been digested by sea-life,
You spray your unformed, polymorphous waters
On every dirty body and delicate injury.
You force accumulated soot off of skyscrapers
And flush the mud down streets and into gutters.
You irrigate what few parks still remain,
Replenish the sun-cracked bed of dry Lake Roland,
And fill Loch Raven Reservoir past its capacity.
You offer yourself to the many who require you.
Lady of ample love,
Of blood and doses,
I have not words enough
To call your rosters.
I can only speak your name, and ask a blessing.
You never fail to prove yourself to me,
And I would share that promise with seven friends
Who have not known they felt you, Aquae Sulis.
Come, if you will, with water enough for seven
To Charles Village, and I will show them to you.
Send seven waterfalls roaring over Charles Martin,
Each to resound with echoes of his speech.
Bathe Steven Brodsky’s body in seven whirlpools,
For it was strong, but lately has been broken.
From out of Dorothy Wang’s mute, beautiful eyes
Force seven thousand rhythmic laments to flow.
Let seven fish-packed streams run down from a peak
For Monica Prasad to cast her line in.
In the broad sky above Lloyd Edward Kermode
Shape seven clouds that he might fill with music.
Encircle Mia Scharper with seven geysers
Erupting at regular intervals in her honor.
Let Amy Hungerford-Shirley steep in a tub
Of seven steaming gallons of softened water
To draw out bitter memories like tea.
Then I will place myself
At the confluence
Of those seven tributaries,
And there I will submerge.
Aquae Sulis, I share
Your sufficient promise.
I will know your water.
Holy, it cleans my wounds.