scattered across the desert by the August wind.
It was hot then.
A communist plot, I tell you.
They’re all mad!”
“Why have children? They only break your heart in the end…”
“These Westerners only want out oil.
That is all they are after… oil!”
“Love? Love is the stuff of fools.
You can’t believe in love in this day and age…what do people know?
We are all fools…”
I work in a hotel. A big hotel. I carry luggage.
For Americans. For foreigners. For the White Man.
I am a porter in a hotel, but I am a poet, I tell you.
I am in a Baghdad tea shop at the end of the Book Market in the Old Town.
I am sipping tea.
It is the book market where tired old souls go to tell stories. To listen. To gloat.
To remember a time gone by when their lives mattered.I am in a book market tea shop in Baghdad in the middle of August.
I am thirsty.He is fifty-years-old. At least. Fifty-five, maybe. Nearly sixty.
He has carried more baggage than the stories he has hidden in his heart. You can see it under his eyes.
He is a porter. A carrier of luggage heavier than a Louis Vuitton trunk.”I am a poet, I tell you. A poet!”
The ‘first novelist.’ The first imaginative man? The first one to pick up a pen since Elvis Presley sang about blue suede shoes? The first one to picture a life beyond the sand dunes and the sand storms? The first one to put himself past the mirage the desert summer has created in his head?
“We are a country dealing with our open wounds…”
I knew what that meant.
My love and my life ended on a quiet unassuming Tuesday night – I woke up and it was gone.
I knew what an open wound was. I live with it every day.
I am not a porter in a hotel for crass white men, but I might as well be. I knew what it was like to live every day and carry old baggage. I knew what it was like to live with an open wound.Iraq.
“Maybe if I let it breathe, it will heal faster.”
Who knows. It was August. The desert was curling up in itself, and the heat was building mirages.I was in a tea shop in Baghdad, and the ceiling fan was cutting through the hot summer air, spinning tales as fast as tea leaves could brew.The caged bird sang. It really did. And even Maya Angelou wouldn’t have believed it.
But there it was – a green piddly little thing in a wooden prison above our heads. Above the smoke. Singing its heart out.
Light my cigarette. One puff and the world is at peace. One puff. And the summer tales unfold like the sands on a windy desert dune. The castles it built in the air. Oh, the spectacle. The spectacle! Broken hearts soldered like sand in the summer heat.
The unflinching summer heat.
Iraqi tea. Sweet and tangy.A city without women, indeed.
Sweet, and heavy. You could slice it with a blink of an eye. Lashes would slice through the wounded heat. Heart. I mean HEART. Lashes would slash through the wound.
That is the tragedy of the desert. That is the magic of the sand dunes.
The wind and the desert sun.
Healing comes in the morning. If you let it.The wind. The bird. In a cage. It doesn’t matter.
It is August. In Baghdad. The bird is paralysed by the summer heat.
I pick up a pen to write, and my blood is frozen solid.
I am cold. Very cold.
*first web-published 13 Nov., 2003 on my dear friend Duraid’s blog