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Amid snake charmers rioting atop milk crates overturned
and storytellers unraveling their tongue-seeds across the sand
amid a field of ankles stained with henna tattoos
a woman stands waiting for her husband.
She lays her baby onto the small of her back, wraps their bodies
together with a headscarf, tying knot after knot around her belly.
The bell of a passing bicycle rings and the man sitting next to me
removes his pointy shoes, exposing the long red radishes of his toes.
There are men on scooters with flat tires and cross-legged gazelles
riding shotgun—their embroidered dresses circle the square.
And I’ve never seen camels along the Atlantic
or the scattering of veils washing themselves in the water
or the light plucked from palm and cacti, turning the ivory
handle of my armoire into the Marrakech moon.
As the odor of incense fills the air above the polluted blow
of motorbikes shouting through the media, the call to Azan begins.
Like a pinprick of ancient voices emerging from the sand
it echoes like the wail of a donkey through the alley next door
past the gutted fish lining the labyrinth walkways
the red stripe of their spines stripped of impurities.
It breathes the smell of mint leaves past storefronts
selling spices, dried cherries and cashews.
It sounds of madness, of anger, of wheat
of paisley sewn into silk.
It sounds like Allah himself shouting from the sky
ash-breath pouring from his mouth.
It is then that the circling horsefly lands
resting his sternum on my temple.
And the finches caged in the courtyard settle
silence their wandering eyes.
Even the storks guarding the city’s gates
spring up, then kneel again.
Even the colors of every painted facade—the browns
the yellows, the reds—dragged from the brush
each filament of color seems to emerge
and perform its own ablution.
How can we not savor this breath?
Like the remnant of sun still warming the walls
or les femmes de ménage preparing the evening tea
like the silver cups on our table
I like the line between lip and liquid to be thin.
Like the dancing cobras enticed from their baskets
Like storytellers recounting the truths of time.
How we feel them to our death, how we devour them willingly
like blind scars that guide us.
like snails in the sand, bellies burying themselves deeper.
like the tugging of rope, like the waiving of white flags
I too, turn myself over.