March 29, 2013

More Poetry from the Vaults

Recently, I rediscovered a bunch of poems that had been shuttered away in the back bedroom cupboard of my mother's, squashed at the bottom of a box I hadn't opened for twenty years.  Aouli Day was inspired by a trip to Morocco in the 1980s and my first taste of culture clash.

Aouli Day in Larache

Just as at the Lixus,
tumble-down Acropolis,
silence, and a lone cypress tree
with curvature of the spine.

The smell reaches us
by camel-express,
all banks are closed, all shops,
all restaurants. ‘Tomorrow’ they say,
‘Tomorrow, you’ll see’
in the souk
inquisitive sheep peer
out of crates,
waiting, as if for a train
that never runs on time.

Dawn’s signal cock-a-doodle choked,
the augury of its fate,
a premature strangulation.
The early morning Koran is recited
On the radio.
‘How is yours today?’ she asks,
‘you know. On the hole?’
we cannot digest anymore.
In place of sleep,
we drowse.

Eager boys watch skewered lambs
hiss on hot black coals
intensify the noonday sun.
Whole families drink, wash faces,
Clothes, rinse entrails
at the street tap,
Immunised by fasting.
Children stare at flies,
and we aliens, the English.

‘inevitably’ we say’ the point is
that there is none’.
All journeys- this one too-
Go through stark blue and
white-washed shanty town cabins,
the way to Hassan’s ‘casa blanca’.
Have sensational attributes
Why, for instance,
are we made to feel like
cash registers on legs?

High-jacked out of the time-space
We are unreal cut outs,
people without a point,
wilting under the strain,
like a new leisured class,
Who rendevous at the frontier,
where water, sky and desert
at night, retreat to elementals,
primary spirits.
Abdul Rashid sharpens
the kitchen knife.
The head came off in one strong,
stroke; the roof terrace
is covered in blood.
‘He is a tailor’ says Hassan.
But he might be better
employed in an abbatoir.
Perhaps –we think-
he is gentle to his wife
and five children;
there’s another one on the way.

I know how it felt,
the food and me did not mix well.
Sheep’s lung, heart, bladder,
sheeps’ head in cous-cous.
Ventricles stick in the throat
like rubber tubes.
They beg us to ‘eat more’.
We pray not to vomit, or seem
ungrateful at the simple

It stands to reason,
this fulminating slaughterhouse;
this multitude of village prayers,
burnt offerings, dances,
Allah’s unearned income,
sets the imagination
ceremonially askew.
The music tells me this;
its repetition.
The essence of the bloody
thing is a magnificent trance.

Holiday tummy is irrelevant.
We might as well be
imaginary and not particular
beings, for our fly-on-the-wall
Usefulness is in passing through,
waving travellers cheques
like magic wands,
abhorring the presence of
so much coca-cola, but
The children find us funny.

Why did we come?
To find new interests,
A more than we bargained for
two-week package to an Agadir hotel.
Hassan would give anything
to marry an English girl,
But the uplift out of
humbles us and
makes us lean.

©  Kieron Devlin, 1987

Larache 1986

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