The wind maims the sky with dust. An old womanRefuses to be photographed, instead insists I buy
Fat lemons dripping yellow from her basket. The question
Is well-thumbed but hard to fathom still. “Caravanserai?
Mish fahima. Wikala yani?...mesh, shimaal.”* One more try
At capturing her face against the yellow of the lemons.
Foiled, once more. “La, madame.” The wind, a dust-scratched sky
And resolute refusal standing in for omens.
The left lane’s narrow, many days of dust lodgeIn the lines between cobbles. Deserted after the turn.
Is my person safe, are my things? There’s just one guy
Blowing at a charcoal fire. A sudden smudge
A sharp spiked shadow of petty, personal concern
Under a faded awning flapping against the sky.
The lane meets another, widens; and clumps of men
Sit sipping tea to keep hands busy with some option.
A group of university students animatedly discuss
If the country’s got into a hodgepodge of political mess
Or just an economic one and if that’s so, then
Which spring green step to prioritise? The exact focus
Needed to secure the sky and deserted alleyways again.
The wind has whipped their hair into fluid haloesAround their heads. The break in talk is quite abrupt
At my presence. Jaws harden a little, perhaps hostile.
Is a foreigner who’s not a tourist welcome now? No-one knows.
Old rules of warmth, are they to be broken or kept?
A revolution swats at tiny transactions of lifestyle.
Their manners impeccable, their faces tender, eyes chill
They show me the way readily enough, no disrespect
Creases the border of coldness. Nothing’s changed, but still
Not one of us on either side knows what to expect
Circumstances set up their own insidious codes of conduct
Fit monumental changes into the trivial drill
Of daily tasks. Of getting through small, moral dilemmas. How to direct
A foreign woman on the streets with time to kill.
The path ahead narrows again, an archway and then
The lane an unlit off-white candle tapers into the gloom
The doorway seems much further than I’d thought
Should I turn back? Or press on forward again?
Between the two, there is hardly any room
To manoeuvre, and I am squeezed and caught.
Maybe it was sound advice after all, given somewhere –
Perhaps it’s indecent to ogle, come out and avidly stare
At history being made. The whole enterprise
Undignified. To stalk the alleys without averting eyes
From jobless youth swallowing their tea of despair.
Vaguely voyeuristic. No use the repeated cries
About solidarity and you-don’t-know-how-much-I-care.
Feet have a way of marching on while the brain’s
Busy unravelling complications and their intricate motives.
The edifice is here with its huge vaulted portal.
Deserted but for the guides, and the remains
Of an artist’s painting. The nation outlives
Revolutions and petty voyeurs. Stoic. Immortal.
Walls are good sometimes. Walls are the only barrierBlocking listless eyes. An ancient room in a merchant inn
Now a studio, where the artist’s left pieces of his career
Hung on walls, and incomplete on the easel. A guarded grin
Of dried up colours still smears his palette, a possible skin
On muddy water in a blue ceramic cup left for the voyeurs
To peer at and see their own tentative reflections in.
The whole in photogenic disarray, colourful yet severe.
The mocking laugh of red on green, the scream of banshee bluesStill carry on the protests here as do the street graffiti
The subjects are traditional, old archways, carpet-sellers, the usual.
Only a trembling line, suppressed emotions give away the clues
And bring in silently what’s being discussed in the city.
The heated talk of young men, and a lemon-seller’s refusal.
*Caravanserai? I don't understand. You mean the merchant inn? Okay, go left.
La - no.
Sometimes events shift the co-ordinates of familiar places and they must be re-explored from entirely different perspectives. This one, posted sometime back, is based on an amalgamation of events and walks in the Islamic Old City after the Revolution.
Linked to Open Link Night @ dVerse