Ex-Embassy - Poem by Carol Muske-Dukes
Sometimes, at dawn, I think I hear
the high sobbing cry of the muezzin
hanging in the sky before it's light
but then, I drop off to sleep again.
Behind us is the ex-embassy.
Its pool a blue mosaic through
our hedge. The old man
in robe and wrapped head no longer
comes to mop the tiled edge—
his whole morning's work
fragmented by our wall of leaves.
No arm in a rolled sleeve,
bending, lifting. No flashing sections
of aluminum pole fit into a blue mesh scoop
for whisking up floating petals.
No closeup: like a Cubist inset,
a turbanned man sipping tea,
eyebrow and striped cup,
slice of a woman's profile
black half-veil, two eyes
yoked in kohl moving in a hand-held
mirror. No sun machine-gunning
that round of glass. No part
of a lamb turning on part of a spit.
No peacock opening a bit
of its promiscuous fan.
No cook hurrying the meat
with jagged curses. No meat.
No god. No medallion front,
the cornices deflagged
as bare crude evidence
or our power to invade,
theirs to resist.
A For Sale sign likens it
to a house on a cloud,
a sunrise mosque. It has
patterned tiles with sickles
of wheat or hashish. And wickets,
a porte cochère engemmed
with rotating spots.
Maybe a neighbor, through
a closing door,
saw grown men cry out
in a frenzy, on a cold floor,
to a god no one comprehends.
No one comprehends how,
like the god of the broken, rusted lamp,
once out, uncramped,
Not anything you could imagine
not any servant
but the familiar reductive infinite—
lines of fuel drums, phone wires.
Rolled up in the bottom of a child's red valise,
timing devices, threads of plastique . . .
left behind for the doubters,
the personal grit of some other deity,
some intoxicating tattooed Allah
above the human ruins, head in hand.
Not that. Not this. In the garden,
a broken rope of amber beads,
within each separate bead
the lights of patrols go by,
elongate—the next night and the next—
what I don't know
but learn to dread
turns over slowly in my bed.
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