Chinese dulcimer fingers deserts of rubble,
stones between the toes of tired camels,
and a setting sun near midnight, when, finally,
the air softens like dried tea dampened with brine.
The mothers fill their cheeks and spit tannin
onto their babies’ oiled arms, legs, creases.
Today, I touched your buttocks and your inner thigh
with my toes;
to me your buttocks are like bread loaves,
and I can’t get by for a day, without having them nearby.
How I love to sleep with the window open,
and the air undulating over me.
It is a rudimentary lovemaking-
the cool sliding of the night air over me.
When I wake, my hand always seeks my breast
in a benediction- it is a comfort
to remember my breasts;
it is a comfort, to stir in the night
and to feel the touch of the green-blue air,
to feel the black shadow of the trees,
black in the night,
deep in the night,
moving just enough, in the damp.
I could be in a tent in any desert;
I think I was born with a tent in my heart,
in the way that Greek boys are born
with a ship in their salt hearts.
I could be under muslin in any desert;
I could be breathing in the smoke of dung or of tamarisk;
I could be listening to the harsh sound
of the fellahin’s song;
I could be lying back, looking up at the sky,
reclining to the scratching and padding
of elegant, calloused fingers
on fish-skin drums.
I could be shuffling my leathery feet in the dust,
while the tamarind of the sunset lights up tiny motes
and purple puffs of fine talc.
Once upon a time,
you walked the markets with your man-friends,
your face covered in beard,
your body clothed in a long shirt,
sitting to drink mint tea.