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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fast Day 39 March 1, 2008 {The Tunisian Lady}

It suddenly dawned on me that in a mere 52-39 = 13 posts yet to come, I shall actually have produced a poem, or something vaguely reminiscent of a poem, at a rate of one per week for an entire year.

Indeed, peace must be just around the corner.


The Tunisian Lady

We students chose to eat like Mamelooks,
the kings, that is, the regents regal
of an Egypt of mediaeval time who
ruled the district, the small villages,
the boundaries rural, the hamlets, and
unnamed dusty children swarming.

Like Baybars we laid siege to Al Ameer's
on Warren and Schaefer and lofted
the Greek fire of our hunger made
sharp by the sight of cultured encampments
and domes of tabbouli and humus, gilded
and stuffed with the spices of shawarma.

Nothing was haraam. Our scholarly
friendship took a zest and scattered fruit
throughout our souls. We talked of husbands
and wives, and hopes and dreams...
poetries and acts of love,astrologies,
fortunetelling...things usually forbidden.

And after eating we sauntered out
like drunken soldiers and reeled in
the late afternoon sun which fired
the asphalt parking lot, exchanging gifts
and cutting up, talking, intermittent
and asking whether dessert would do?

So on to Shatila! The great Bakery Damascene!
Where the tales are spun of wheat and gold;
The great orthodox Baker who ruled the
postprandial circumambulations
of his people with a sweet disguise being
strewn amongst their homely haunts!

The eaves dripped honey.
The pillars were pure sugar encrusted,
standing joyfully like the wife of Lot,
this time obedient to the Lord.
The walls were a nectar tessera
mosaic of luxurious history!

Yet as we broke, yet as we part
the sun had gone and it was dark
with only satisfaction to light the way
into a dim crumbling asphalt...
and immigrant winds insinuated
their way into our clothes.

The teacher found a skull by the side
of the road, against a wall, sitting.
And to it was attached a body
with arms and legs thin as
dowels, or the rudely sculpted wood
of a crumbled marionette.

It was a lady from Tunisia, alive
yet it seems. She had an ancient walker
and she had an outboard crutch.
She stood a rag within the wind
and each of us, the Jamaican, the Syrian
and the native born held our breath.

The teacher spoke to her and discovered
that she was pregnant and had come to the
pharmacy for medicine, where her driver
had abandoned her four or five hours
ago, so she collapsed herself against
the sunny wall and waited.

We drove her home to the basement
where she lived in a neighborhood
of roving dogs and high grass
where landlords wore no shirts
and lanterns were pinchpenny of
their bilious light.

A skull used to be placed upon
the festal table to remind
that life was short and death awaited.
Time flies or seize the day is a slogan
to wear on your lapel.
Of what is Life a symbol?

2 comments:

Ilham said...

I enjoyed reading your poem about the tunesian lady it is a vivid memory in my mind, when we went all togther to drive her home, I often think what become of her, is she alive? or what happend to her , any way you really did a wonderful job in creating this poem it is so real you just brought back all the memories and feelings of that night . thank you for caring about humanity , your writing is wonderful with your various adjectives and colors , and a touch of history and mystery make your writing so strong and powerful.
I wish you always good health, love, peace and happiness and a an ocean flow of creativities.
Best wishes,
ILham mahfouz

Montag said...

...just like Zakaria Tamir...