Arabian knight on the run
On a day once near Al Ain,
so hot Satan sought shade,
no dune, no shelter in sight,
I saw a man pissing in the sand.
His damp and limp dishdasha
Looking grungy and likely smelling
sour from the day's sweat
was hiked up tanned shanks.
He stood spread eagle to prevent
piss from splashing his sandals.
A hand on one hip, another pointed
his water to puddle into a sand stain.
Speeding by in our cool blue car,
we cruised along the hot tarmac.
Our driver pushed the pedal to
tuck us in safely before nightfall.
Through my rearview mirror, where objects
may be closer than they appear, I stole a
backward glance at the man pissing in the
sand. Fading fast, I spied him, hauling
himself up on a kneeling camel. Undulating
awkwardly, they loped away toward
a distant dune. As in a memory flash,
near Al Ain, the two faded into mirage.
Neither the hot sand nor the nomad's
stance seemed droll or bizarre to us
in the cool car. Not mere curiosity, nature's
urgent call bound him to us magically.
(Near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2004)
Freedom a distant gleam
Abu Dhabi women stand in a half-circle, eyes peering
at us through a small slit or oval opening in their head
wraps or shemagh scarves. Like baby penguins huddled
in creches for strength, the women watch expectantly from
the safety of a protected world. Light brown, blank faces
radiate warmly in cameo relief against black fabric folds
engulfing them. The dishdasha overwhelms the women,
tsunami-like, inhibiting their movement, their souls and wills.
(Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2004)
Crane Forests circa 2006
From my high-rise hotel, I watch the waters of
the Arabian Gulf gently nudge the shores of beaches
swiftly disappearing from erosion made by machines.
Frenetic crane forests stand in the sands of the Emirates,
casting shadows like giant yellow praying mantises at midnight
and during the noonday prayers. Gleaming glass skyscrapers,
children of the mating cranes, are rooted in spaces
where Lawrence of Arabia might have miraged into real.
Night and day, day and night, tall booms--skeletal sinews of
steel--jerk and sway like oversized toys in a grainy, flickering
grade-B film. Arabian nights fade into light
from artificial amber,
two-hump camels are replaced by SUVs, whose hard-hat
swagger, tattoos glisten, pony-tails flap in warm Gulf breezes.
Crane forests multiply overnight, eat their mates, quickly die.
(Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2006)