A September When…

They are twenty-two,

white American women overseas,

drawn to Morocco,

a land of cities adorned

in tile and brick, clay and stone, metal and wood.

A land of cities painted,

doors of forest green

walls of sun-faded red

window shutters of royal azure blue.

The air thick with aroma…

fallen, rotting figs,

burning sandalwood,

dried cinnamon, saffron, coriander, cumin and ginger,

baking nan and frying fish.

Language forms a discordant song.

Children sell chick peas by the gram,

calling out in French, then Spanish, sometimes English.

Men fill cafes, their dialogue in Arabic spilling out into the streets.

Waves of drums and voices lift, resonate,

hands clap and castanets clack.

They feel the thrill of anonymity

coupled with the terror of estrangement.

They are willful others, foreign tourists,

naive to their privilege,

hearts and minds tender and budding.

Two among hundreds of thousands navigating crowded streets.

They are wanderers seeking the unknown.

A man brushes against her shoulder,

He leans in close, utters words meant for her, for them,

“…catastrophe à La Maison-Blanche!”

Suddenly she feels caught by eyes searching.

She bows her head, clenches stiff white cotton.

They move swift and bewildered,

through a labyrinth of doorways, side streets and tunnels,

passing women who silently carry baskets of goods,

men who gut tilapia in fish markets,

Emerging into the medina,

relieved to return to this new familiar center.

They enter a small cafe, tiled in red and pink.

The owner, Raashid, sits beside them,

pointing to the television in the corner

where an image replays–

airplanes crashing into tall towers,

smoke and ash billowing…

time escapes them.

They have been crying.

Raashid offers his compassionate gaze, his smile warm.

They talk of fear, of shock, of shame, of death and loss.

They contemplate the future–how it could be shaped by tyrants.

They hold hands, praying in silence.

They part at nightfall.

He hails them a taxi to the train station,

to their next destination–south and westward,

as westerners never stop moving.

Essaouira via Marrakesh.

Young beckoning men of the Sahara sell jewelry,

silver, lapis, amber, jade, moonstone.

Aziz, the rider of waves,

Mohammed, the philosopher,

Mustafa, the flamboyant.

Shots of rum are offered behind closed doors.

They talk of life and love,

of politics and marriage,

of the beauty of the desert and the mountains.

They share stories, jokes, and the tonic of laughter.

They extend an invitation for dinner.

At home, they are greeted by mothers, sisters, cousin, aunt and uncle.

They say she has the eyes of a Berber.

They ask, what are they doing, two women, far from home, traveling alone?

They express heartfelt condolences for American lives lost.

They ask, do they support the president?

They ask, what will the U.S. do now?

They sit in a circle, eating quietly,

tajine and couscous, Coca-Cola and nan.

They watch a broadcast of Gnaoua musicians on a glowing screen.

Aziz and Mohammed walk them to the hotel,

the cobbled streets quiet,

the earth beneath compact and cool.

They linger in shadow, whispering of simplicity,

exchanging kisses and caresses,

outlining the shapes of their bodies.

They invite them to forget what they know–

to miss the next bus, the next train and ferry,

to spend winter in the desert.

To inhabit another life…

rising at dawn with birdsong,

walking two miles to fetch water,

being shaped and sifted by wind,

cooking meals with family extended,

gazing outward into the galaxy and beyond,

unleashing from western notions of time,

experiencing the opening of eternity…

maybe then, they would know peace,

maybe then, they would feel whole.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Claimed

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There is mystery and magic to how we are shaped by place, by landscape, by ecosystem. In my search for connection, I am more often met by the wild than the human. I visited a shoreline of a youthful adventure past. The harbor seals and I exchanged wordless stories about the pleasures of swimming in briny waters, sleeping on sandy shores, and being awash in wave song.

Perspective

Today I walked an old familiar path through woods I have known since young childhood. Only this time I began where I usually end, and I ended where I usually begin. Everything looked different, altered on the flipside. I came upon unmarked trails leading into mystery–had they been here before? I had lapses of disorientation. Where was I? Do I know this grove of cedars? …this seasonal pond? this patch of horsetail? this steep incline? this creek? I turned in a circle. The path lay quietly behind me and before me. I felt, more than thought, I know this forest, this compacted earth beneath my feet, this April sunlight illuminating trillium and salmonberry blossoms. I know the unseen presences surrounding. I am known here. It occurred to me then, that perhaps I was undoing a spell cast through years of footfalls, or maybe I was weaving a new one–a spell of spring, one of transformation and renewal.

Parts of Her

Parts of her are held.

Parts of her are held together.

Parts of her are held together by stories.

Stories inhabit her cells

shape her thoughts

form her identity

radiate her heart

haunt her spirit.

 

She belongs to some,

and some belong to her.

Others have traveled from beyond.

All are interwoven,

all are calling,

all are longing,

some are begging–

to be recalled

to be told

to be heard

to be released.

 

If she tells,

who will listen?

If she tells,

who will believe?

If she tells,

who will keep her stories?

 

 

Will her telling be a mending?

An unraveling?

Or, will her telling be an unraveling and a mending?

 

She understands her questions are ancient–

that there is no knowing,

that there will be no reassurance.

The answers will come

when she begins–

and as with all beginnings,

her voice must rise from the dark silence of the unknown.