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from the March 2016 issue: Crossing Boundaries: Morocco's Many Voices

The Past

A long while ago now
in those chipped years like a camel’s tail
in those dim months like a desert mirage
in those unchanging days blurring into each other
everyone was brought head first into this world
The golden oleaster flowers and the
copper grains of sand smelled like an upset stomach
Ugly people with no concern for their own souls
would lock winter in spring and insult it left and right
It was then that crawling water was discovered
Everyone’s left eyelid would quiver in the morning
and they’d tell each other, may God take pity on you
One who stole fruit or books or wives was not a thief
The world made no promises to anyone
The angel of death didn’t neglect a single elder
Men looked to women’s feet, women to men’s hands
God stayed up nights pairing off men and women who looked like each other
Children were born merely because men and women got married
When children asked, When will we be grown up
Their mothers said, When the sun shines on a Thursday
When youths asked, When will we be happy
Their elders said, when a camel tail touches the earth
The sun never shone on a Thursday, a camel tail never touched the earth
In each person’s home was an old stove
with a flame no one dared to extinguish
In each person’s courtyard was a dark well
no one had the courage to uncover
In each person’s heart was a strange hope
no one was willing to speak aloud

It was a time like that
and it often resumes even now

 

© Tahir Hamut. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2016  by Joshua L. Freeman. All rights reserved.

March 2016
Crossing Boundaries: Morocco's Many Voices
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