Al-Magreb

Usually my poetry never leaves its little file on my computer, save for the occasional document I email to a friend or two. This is the most public I’ve ever gone with it, but its hard not to write a love poem like this and not share it.

I pray to a God with many names from the rooftops of Morocco:

“Please,

Don’t let these throaty, unfamiliar letters,

Words that pull my tongue through mazes and circus acrobatics,

Poetry that curls like smoke,

Curls like the alphabet that composes it

slip through my fingers.”

I plead to the universe:

“Let the sieve of my brain have small holes,

That the language that fills my nose

With the scent of cedar and my mouth

With the taste of cumin

Never falls through it.”

It’s absurd really.

My ancestors never could have predicted the miles,

the cultures, the friendships, the faith I have earned.

I have unfolded my great-great-great grandmothers maps

Further than she could fathom.

She would never recognize me in this “jellaba,”

Couldn’t pick me out from a crowd in Fes because

She probably had never even heard of this city in the valley.

I sit in a van winding through the Atlas Mountains and

Listen to my dad’s favorite songs,

Occasionally the uud on the radio mixing with the

Jimmy Buffet in my headphones. 

I exchange greetings in stumbling Arabic with

Kind shopkeepers and drink sticky sweet tea with “naana”,

pulling the pot skyward like something holy.

My eyes roll with the many passing “tst tst tsts”

And “hi beauty”s from greedy men but

my disgust is quickly replaced with smiles with

each salaam from wrinkled women in hijab.

I wash my blisters with iodine,

My feet tanned with dust and betrayed by my sandals,

Sweat perpetually glistening on my forehead.

I savor the thousands of “marhaba” kisses on my cheeks,

The generous hands of women

clasping my own like the blood in our veins are the same.

I ask myself again and again how I got here,

How deeply and quickly the warmth of tagine and

The cloud like comfort of couscous lured me into affection.

How did “labaas” and “inshaallah” and “mashemushki”

weave so quickly into my vocabulary.

How do I miss this place before I’ve even left?

A place that was a stranger not two weeks ago,

A place full of strangers that were strangers not two weeks ago.

I pray my brain never makes the mistake

Of letting these words, this tongue escape.

Inshaallah, I say again and again

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Andy says:

    That’s beautiful and genuine, All-ee-son. “pulling the pot skyward like something holy.” Consider setting some more of your poems free. Pull them skyward.

    Like

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