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Lalla Fatima

Lalla Fatima
Summer time–

blast of the same black sirocco
blow-dries bright green
under the shattered villa windows.

It’s siesta time.

Transparent, like a sheet of paper, blank,

Lalla Fatima, in a state of undress,
awakes to receive the inscription
from Moulay Ali,
making his first visit to the blue sheet of her bedroll
on Moulay Hassan’s day, May 1966.

Mute before the canvas, facing all at once the burden of her gift
he purses the blood from her lips!
Intimate as a pair of eyes, they huddle together like thirsty shades.

That rabid wind bangs shutters,
dis-colors the sea,
dishevels the world outdoors.

The bonne brings coffee and orange blossom water.
Beside the demi-tasses
Moulay Ali lies on the bed, exhausted.
Lalla Fatima, stretches, yawns, awaits
to be loved again.

Upon Looking at a Photograph of Lalla Fatima

Moulay Ali woke up with an erection
and a headache.
The first was soon gone,
but the second lingered on . . .
He closed his eyes,
hoping for the comfort of darkness,
yet instead got no relief.

The Berber carpet smelled like dust,
its old woolen thread dead to the touch.
All Berber carpets are named after something bright and tempting:
“warm honey,” “orange blossom,” “yāsamīn petals,” “pomegranate seeds”
The earth tones were the most popular.

Moulay Ali stretched out on the sofa,
careful not to knock the nearby kitchen table with his arms
and turned onto his side
so that he lay facing the mangy back of the sofa,
where he kept a black and white photograph of Lalla Fatima
stuck between the pillows.
He hadn’t seen her for a while,
but he looked at the photograph every day.

Whenever Moulay Ali tried to remember her face,
he had difficulty seeing anything other than the photograph.
The woman in the snapshot had the same thin nose as Lalla Fatima,
the same black brows,
the same high cheekbones,
but her mouth was stretched into a tight smile,
and she seemed uneasy, somehow insincere.

This wasn’t the Lalla Moulay knew.

There were moments
when he could picture some detail of the real Lalla Fatima–
the cinnamon skin of her cheeks,
the tiny freckles on her supple breasts,
the beads of sweat
that would speckle the tip of her fine nose
when she would move on top of him.

But these visions were always brief
and incomplete.
Other parts of Lalla Fatima he remembered better.
Her jet black hair hardly hijāb-ed,
except when she ventured outside,
her full lips turning crimson blue when aroused,
her long legs thin and brown,
easily bruised,
often covered in the summer with scratches
and pink swellings from mosquito bites.

Back home she had always rushed to meet him
when he returned from work.
She would jump around him

like a puppy
as he removed his babouche and burnous,
hugging him,
grabbing him by the hands,
covering him with untargeted kisses.

The woman in the photograph,
merely smiled at him with her mouth closed.
“This woman could take care of me,” Moulay Ali mumbled,
having emerged from the closet with a stack of books.
He felt fleeting relief.
“She would not torture me with longing,
nag or ask me to come home.
She would tend to my needs,
coldly, skillfully, quickly.

But only in a fantasy,

nurtured by a tensed desire.”


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