← Philament 5: Ornament

you always

Lydia Saleh Rofail

i remember
the bravery of those crimson toes
delicate armour amid musky crowds
when we stopped to buy broad beans you smiled at the vendor’s daughter with the
bedouin eyes
‘she has the desert in her eyes’ you said
while she put out her hand
you filled it with piastres
were always kind like that

that woman?
you gave… when she was clutching
her withered child—she kissed
your hand and you had said ‘i know
i know my days in flesh
are brief
i feel no years’
how sweet you were

think back—
one night we walked
through that bazaar, arm in arm among sandy earth and beggars
a sonorous rhythm of pharaonic women
by oceans
and generations

can you picture those meandering streets?
those streets where
intoxicated whisperings rose and drifted like spiced blue smoke
citadels among grotesquely-peopled streets
were only
fevered activity
your suffering

new year’s eve
we laughed
drank in the tapestry of delirium and dust
beneath ancient stars no odious bird flew that night
momentary freedom
we weren’t dispassionate, just forgetful
but you remembered
you always did

Lydia Saleh Rofail writes, “This poem was born when I was challenged in a poetry class by Australian poet J.S. Harry. In order to overcome writers’ block, Harry had asked me to write about something close to the heart. This poem is a portrait of a person inextricable from her city, which like her was mesmeric and afflicted.” Saleh Rofail is currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy at the University of Sydney.