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Streets of Gold

First memory of a sacred mosque,
Salmon-colored in the brilliant sun
Of mid-morning, birds flitting in and out
Of familiar arcs. On a beach, a man
In elaborate robes sells rides on his camel,
And offshore I can see an island being built
In the shape of a palm leaf, a resort for the elite.
An old man in white robes falls asleep
On a wooden bench on a shining tile walk.

Men in long shirts matched to their pants
Unload massive sacks from a rail truck.
Others stroll by, elaborate cloths draped
Over their heads to ward off the violence
Of the unwavering sun, past enumerable shops
Of countless millions in shimmering ore,
All wedged or molded into every bauble
That could conceivably be sought.

Alleys as populated and commercial
As the streets; men selling watches or blended pulp
Of exotic fruits, or gathered in plastic chairs,
Seeking private congress in the shady tunnel path,
Daring me with their eyes to objectify them
With my camera, which blinks insolently
In my fervent hand. One glares venom
Into my heart when I photograph a scene
As he happens to stop in the middle of it.

Reaching the park, the docks, a smiling boatman;
No interest in haggling, we pay our 100 dirham,
And travel up and down the great creek,
Past parks and glass towers and spherical buildings
And other buildings like great tents;
Men sleeping barefoot on boats,
Fisherman setting out toward the boiling sea.
Here and there, men perched on hoists at work
With small tools and glistening brown faces.

Finally landing in the spice market,
Where I make a sincere promise to a shopkeeper
To return for a box of his dates, which I tried
Yesterday, and later forget completely.
A sand-colored apartment building where balconies
Painted turquoise boast the garments and practical
Items of the residents, drying in the arid sunburn
Afternoon that would be foolishly squandered.

Walls enclose what once was a thriving village
Of fisherman, setting out in wooden dhows
To return with a bountiful catch to cook over flames
Or dry on twine. Now a place for tourists
And abandoned even by them, the solitude
So familiar that the shopkeepers leave merchandise
Unattended as they seek shade. Outside the walls,
Wooden skiffs are marooned in sand,
While across the boardwalk, a rich man’s catamaran
Idles in the bay. Men rest more than work
In the now low-lying sun. Two men- garments flow
Behind them, as they roll by serenely on vital bicycles.

Lumbering now around the inlet, parched and weary
Back toward streets where Dubai taxis are plentiful,
Ready to be carried back to synthetic atmospheres.
Ahead, two businessmen amble in the street.
In the reclining sun, they throw somber shadows
Over gleaming cobblestones behind them;
Voices low in the temperate surrounds;
A suggestion of evening in the desert city
As they merge into a transitory painting.


Very atmospheric, the last two lines are very beautiful.
gel said…
You weave rich and vivid tapestries that I'd like to re-visit and shall.

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I think, sometimes,
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but that can change on the way
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I prepare for outside.
Rain makes it easier,
bends my eye to the ground,
to the architecture;
turns everything to gold.
The new gravity holds me,
turns the voices into hums,
the walkers into clouds.

But outside my door,
there are voices already,
breaking through planks of wood
that should mean security,
and I’m in their path;
every word an arrow
tipped with poison.

They’re only voices.
They are not harsh;
they do not threaten.
They’re not aimed at me
at all. Yet I suspect,
hidden from me,
there are faces attached.