Friday, November 4, 2016

The Lay of Ayishah (2)

To listen to an audio recital of the poem, click here

I walked from Ein Gedi to Masada
I looked out over the Dead Sea
                         and beyond it
     towards Jerusalem

I climbed into the cave of Sodom
                    the flour cave
          and it was very cold there

That was when she came to me
   a young woman

I felt for her more than friendship
   and hardly less than love

I invited her to follow me
   and then we walked to Jericho together
      after she had first kissed
         her father and her mother

That evening I began to teach her
   how each step forward into the unknown
      unleashes a new mystery

The swimming moon was like an opiate
   hovering behind the smoky cloths of clouds
The sun hung like a fist above Zefat
   above the turrets of the shrines of Zohar
The wind was only a whisper of tranquillity
The dunes of El-Arish were not yet golden
The loneliness was not yet vivid enough
   to mingle with the solitude
      and render it inviolate


We travelled together for more than half a lifetime

In Jerusalem
   I taught her the equivalence of
      the Sepulchre
                  the Rock
                           the Wall

At Caesarea
   we danced barefoot
      on the cold stone of the amphitheatre

At the Chinese Farm
   we amused ourselves
      teaching Mah-Jong to the soldiers

At Ashkelon
   on a cold night of full moon
      in the shade of a wisteria
she made me come with her mouth
   for the first time

At Mussolini’s Shrine
   she climbed up on a rock
      and recited the Beatitudes from memory

In the cafés of Tel Aviv
   where we ate chumus and pitta bread
      she read me those lines from the Bava Batra
that brought us together in the moonlight

In Nazareth
   she recited a passage from the Qur’an
how the fire blazed
      for the contented ones
               and for the discontented ones

At Haifa
   to celebrate symbolically
      we shared a young Danish girl
                                    and Christian
bound in the supreme union

At Aqaba
   we learned from stevedores
      their secret longing for the sea.

So we travelled north again
   along those tracks once made by Moses
      by El-Lawrence
               by Sharon

The scorpions burned
                  black and yellow
The vipers wore diamonds on their brows
The cactus trees poured custard fruit
     out of thorns
               of thorns
                          of thorns

She came to me -
                              to me
laughing sometimes
   not stoical like you
      not bemused like you are
but young
     and laughing

I took her hand
   and led her through the labyrinths of Akko
      through the spice-garden of the king
         through the maze of Judah

I told her I could only worship a goddess
   who understood the dance

I drank the wine of youth at her lips
   and lay on the ground
      drowsed with enchantment
and the fumes of melancholy

I slept a few hours -
                              dreamless -
     at daybreak
               we went our separate ways

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