We meet below Jabal Erba
in the shade of a tamarisk tree.
He speaks Mahass Fadija dialect
that doesn't mean a thing to me.
Still, I mount his camel quickly
and we ride toward the salt, Red Sea
across rugged plateaus of Nubian sandstone,
mica and maganese.
Doum palm, date palm,
Eurasian meadow grasses,
surround the oasis tent where we're left
as the rest of his caravan passes.
Sandalwood incense fills up my nose.
I see bright-spotted leopard skins,
Persian rugs and rosewood
as I open the flaps to go in.
His charcoaled hair is reflected
like his canteloupe-scented red robes,
in the mirror of a bright brass hookah
by the fire's oriental-gold glow.
Dark chocolate eyes explore each of my moves
as we eat spiced saffron rice with our hands.
And dessert of sweet tea and almonds
brings an ivory-and-ebony fan
which the serving girl lies at my feet,
and is picked up and spread out by this man
whose deepgentle, softdark voice moves me
like the shifting breeze swirls cocaine sands.
A bouquet of Nigerian trade beads is next,
and several carnelian-tipped arrows,
a short, copper sword with an ivory hilt,
and a necklace of silver and amber.
His seat on the low, rosewood couch
faces Mecca 'cross-the-Arab-sea,
but his eyes as he reads Islamic manuscript
turn, slowly, toward the West and toward me.
My seat on the soft, silken mats by the door
is framed by navy neon night sky.
The moon floats, captured, in the oasis pool
with the lucite bright stars passing by.
The hot, dry air is stirred by a storm.
Suddenly, a simoom lashes!
The Nubian Desert blows wildly outside
as he fights to get tent flaps all fastened
and slowly sink down on his carpeted bed
to undo his robes bound in sashes.
He asks with his eyes and I wordlessly come
to him, covered in white clouds of hashish.
When I wake in the City, the sand in my eyes
makes me wonder just where he could be,
my ochre-skinned herb of the Orient,
who lives in Sudan by the sea.