On Friday night, North of this line, after tea
before going out, people take a bath, short ‘a’,
maybe with bubbles, perhaps a rubber duck,
some popular tunes on the transistor radio
to soak themselves into the mood for a shimmy.
South of this line, from the West to the East,
before an evening in a Cornish quayside pub
or a clapboard Suffolk Inn, the people baahth,
long ‘a’, as spoken by a lazy sheep, giving directions
to a Roman Spa Town on a warm summer evening.
Time was, that was the only way to ablute, apart
from an enclave within sound of the Bow Bells
where the folk revelled in a bahf, to rhyme with laugh.
The word spread, before long all roads and railways led
out of London and Cockney became ubiquitous Estuary.
The received bahth, received throughout the South
grew itself a bridgehead, dividing West from East,
a corridor formed by M’s One and Forty, reaching up
into the belly of Birmingham, gateway to the North,
perhaps to eventually overcome the rural baahth.
My inheritance is the German Barth, hard ‘t’,
Saxon Thorn long lost to the invasive Franks,
maybe named for a spa town in Mecklenburg
or an ancient line of romantic troubadours
who prefer to shower before leaving the house.