Friday, 19 December 2014

The Poet : Chapter Eight


O Sultana, what a fine start this is!” the Poet moaned as he flew through the corridor leading back into the courtyard. One of the dogs outside the entry door was barking. The Poet rushed to see who was there. He peered out of the entry door  but saw nobody. There was nothing but the dog’s bark and the beautiful scent given off by the flowers. So the Poet turned to go and fetch the tools for the sweep. As he went past the fountain he heard a slight cough emanating from the room where Haroon had been before. The Poet turned quickly and his heart leapt with fear as he saw at the door of that room a young woman –surely the one who had appeared fleetingly behind Haroon. The woman was wearing a white frock rich in purple ornament. Her snow-white arms were naked, for her sleeves were rolled up. Her smallish hands were decorated with henna drawings. Her dark forelock was naked. The Poet tried to look this woman in the eye but she just quelled him with a glance. He rushed upstairs and cried in a low voice: “O my God!” He strove to reach the tool-room as quickly as possible. He fetched a long broom, a small shovel and a big sack, and set to work.
      He started from the remotest corners of the balcony, next to the toolroom. With trembling hands he dragged the broom awkwardly and with a shattered mind he thought of that awfully nice creature on the ground floor who had dislodged his heart. He had seen several beauties before, but this one was unique. His heart was beating with fear, beating very, very hard. It looked as if it was going to burst at any moment now. And yet the Poet couldn’t stop working.
      When he reached the end of the first balcony-corridor, he was already panting– as if he had just run two miles nonstop. He wanted to lean up against the pillar on the right angle of the balcony and rest his arms for a while on the small balcony wall, but he dreaded punishment. So he just shuffled onward, dragging the broom wearily and moving the sack and the shovel from spot to spot. What flustered him even more was that there was virtually nothing to be swept from the floor– apart from handfuls of dust.
      As the Poet was nearing the door of his room, a manly voice rising from below gave him a jump.
      “Hey you above there!” Haroon called.
      “Here I am, Master!” the Poet yelled shakily and dropped the broom and rushed downstairs. He flew to where his master was standing, by the door of that notorious room on the ground floor. Haroon was not alone. The young woman was standing beside him with a reed basket in her hands full of metal dishes and cutlery. A yellow towel hung on one side of the basket. The woman’s face was illuminated by a flickering smile and a golden glint wavered in her eyes.
      “Shalom, Shalman!” said the young woman in a bewitching voice.
      “Shalom, madam!” replied the Poet, who was still panting. He glanced at Haroon and gaped at his demure smile.
      “Take!” said the woman, handing the basket to the Poet. “Go and wash this at the well. Use the lucerne I’ve put in there. And be quick!”
      The Poet took the basket while he bowed deliberately. He relished every bit of word that came out of the young woman’s beautiful mouth. He glanced again at Haroon’s face and turned to go. He flew to the stairs and went up carefully. He put the basket down at the head of the back-stairs and went down to open the rear door. Then he returned to take the basket and descended carefully. He put the basket beside the well and stepped back to shut the door. Only then did he throw the pot into the well and draw water. He was aware that he had to make no mistake. And thus he was very careful when he removed the dishes and cutlery from the basket to wash them piece by piece. When he sat and began the washing, his mind went back immediately to the young woman. He had so far failed to find words to describe that creature. He couldn’t even describe his feelings toward her. It was she who had made him pant. Before now he had thought that he had had eyes for no one but Sultana, although he had always admitted that Sultana was less beautiful than Ida. Ida was slim. And he liked slim people. But this young woman here was peerless in beauty. His heart was still beating for her, although he had just stopped panting.
      What was this woman doing here if she was not Haroon’s wife? The Poet’s heart told him that the woman was Haroon’s wife. But such a wife should have more than one man- or woman-servant. So far the Poet had seen no other woman in this palace of a house. But when he had first arrived here he had seen by the entry door a sad-faced, young black man. He didn’t know where he had gone after that. Surely the house was too big to be kept by just one servant. And what about the times when Haroon had to be away for some affair or other? Who would stay here during his absence?...
      The Poet also noticed that there were no pigs in this house; that Haroon’s food had a special flavour and a special smell, new to him; that Haroon himself looked rather indulgent… Two more things puzzled the Poet. There was no water in the fountain, nor were there children in the house… Also Haroon had referred to boys. The Poet could make nothing of all that.
      The Poet knew that his mistress was waiting for the dishes. So once he had washed and wiped them all he put them again in the basket and took it to the mistress. As he reached that open door, he put down the basket and coughed politely. This time he was not panting. At least, until the young woman appeared again, with a grin on her face.
      “Shalman, is it you?” said the young woman in a maddeningly cheerful voice.
      The Poet just bowed and lowered his head . His heart was loosed free again, but he was still aware that he had to stifle all his passions, even if they happened to be kindled by this queen of beauty. The woman stepped out of the room and turned right, saying: “Come along!” The Poet took up the basket and followed on the heels of the woman as she walked somewhat provocatively. She was not speaking. Her body spoke for her, and the Poet understood easily. A fire had just broken out in his heart. The woman stopped at the door of the room next to the one below the toolroom. She opened the door and drew the yellow curtains to one side and said:
      “This is our kitchen.”
      The Poet bowed, and was about to take the basket into the kitchen when the woman grasped his arm and said gently:
      “Wait! The servants don’t get into our rooms. I’ll take in the basket myself!”
      The Poet ran his hand over his burning arm, the one that had just been grasped by the young woman, and waited. He was about to glance at Haroon’s room when the mistress came out of the kitchen, holding a small earthen brazier in her smallish hands.
      “Take!” she said, handing him the brazier. “Go to the cooking-house behind the sheds and make a fire for me.”
      The Poet bowed as he took the brazier. He was deeply relieved to see a few reddish embers protruding from the ashes. He walked away and vanished through the corridor.
      When he reached the cooking-house, he put down the brazier carefully and opened the wooden door. Then he took the brazier and stepped into the cooking-house. He looked about to see where to sit. He was deeply struck not by the usual stale smell of such places but rather by the tidiness of this attractive, little place. The thick pieces of wood were piled on one side, the thinner pieces on another side. The stove was kept clean a little way on the right of the entrance. It consisted of a small, circular succession of melon-sized stones with a low bed of grey ashes in the middle. A few fire-irons lay by the stove. And on the left of the entrance there was a small oven of red earth. And a small earthen jug was isolated in a rear corner. The Poet put down the brazier beside the stove and moved to see what was in the jug. He dipped his forefinger into the jug and withdrew it, wet with a viscous liquid. The Poet smelled the liquid and knew it was olive-oil. So he simply took up the jug and stepped back to place it beside the brazier. Then, he fetched a handful of thin sticks and sat beside the stove. He broke the sticks into small pieces and put them aside. He blew the smoldering embers with his breath until they grew redder. Then, he poured a spoonful of oil on them and covered them slightly with the thinnest pieces of wood and blew again and fanned till these pieces caught fire. And so the Poet went on with his work patiently until a good, small fire built up in the brazier. He tidied the place and left with the brazier, after having shut the door carefully.
      As the Poet went past the sheep-and-goat shed he heard a flow of shrill goat-bleats and his mind went immediately to his homeland. His heart leapt as Sultana’s undying smile flashed in his eyes like an autumn lightening. Quite instinctively, the Poet knew that there was nothing for it but to rush back to the mistress.
      He stopped by the kitchen door and coughed politely. He then put down the brazier and waited. Sultana had not left his mind. His heart throbbed. The mistress came up to the door, holding a small knife in one hand and rubbing her eyes with the other. “Thank you,” she said, bending down to take up the brazier. And when she rose up and turned to go into the kitchen she added, “Wait!” She then came back with a balloon-shaped earthen pot with a lid and a small basket.
      “Get me water in this pot and tomatoes, mint, thyme, fruits, flowers and eggs in this basket,” the mistress said smilingly.
      “Excuse me, madam,” the Poet asked politely but in a shaky voice. “How many eggs and what fruits and what flowers?”
      “Four eggs and four flowers and two fruits from each tree you’ll find there, right?” the mistress said.
      “Right, madam!” the Poet replied listlessly as he bowed and moved away with the pot and the basket.
      The Poet felt that his heart was about to split in two. He had now taken a closer look at his mistress’ face and made sure he had never seen such a beauty before. But Sultana had yet a peerless smile. And it was this deathless smile which could blur his eyes at any time. And here was Sultana’s smile pursuing him again. “I’m not finer than you are, O Sultana!” he thought sadly and sighed. “I fought for you. And here I am paying for it!”
      The Poet placed the pot beside the well and went toward the fruit-trees, absentminded. And as he stretched his arm to pick the first apple he heaved a deep sigh of sorrow. He  remembered Abu Sufian’s palace. At that moment he felt the fragrant smell emanating from the various plants of this little orchard. He picked two apples and moved on to the next tree. He picked two pears, and as he reached the fig-tree his eyes fell on a young red-throated bird lying on the ground. He bent down and picked it up. The young bird was dying, so the Poet simply placed it gently in a hollow space between the thickest boughs of the fig-tree, and picked two figs and moved toward the flowers. He culled four flowers, and sighed as he rose up and muttered to himself: “Here I’ve lost everything. But for Sultana I had nothing that required me to gall the Amir. But what to do now? May God keep us!” He then went into the henhouse and made his way through the cackling chickens, looked about him in search of the eggs and he picked up four eggs, as the mistress had bidden him, and went outside. He shut the door of the henhouse and made to go. But he realized he had not picked the tomatoes. So he turned to take some. He picked six tomatoes, put them carefully beside the other things in the basket and moved away.
      He went back toward  the well, with a head and a heart full of Sultana. Her face, her smile, her body, her movements and her words and every piece of her were now clearer in his mind. She was still the mistress of his heart, to be sure. No beauty would ever be enough to erase the image of Sultana from his mind. For he had not loved her only for her beauty but also for her soul.
      The Poet put the basket down beside the well and stepped towards the mint- and thyme-beds. He cut a good bunch of mint and another of thyme and moved back to put them in the basket. He then drew water from the well and filled his pot and took it up and moved toward the block of rooms. He went through the rear door, up the back-stairs and put the pot down at the head of the front-stairs and went back to bring the basket. When he brought it he went straight to the kitchen. He coughed politely and put the basket down at the kitchen door and moved back to bring the pot of water. He returned quickly, with a bowed head.
      “There’s yet another chore for you,” the mistress said, bending down to pick up the pot. “Wait!” Again, the Poet’s heart jumped in alarm. The mistress’ beauty was irresistible. Her slightly joined dark eye-brows, her intensely white and deep-black eyes, her innocent, childish smile and her silver voice –all these conspired to bring him back to reality. His heart began to throb ruthlessly. “What’s this?” he thought, bewildered. “It seems you’re gone, Sultana!”
      The mistress came back and fastened her eyes on the Poet’s face. The Poet lowered his head to hide his blush.
      “Where are you from?” the mistress asked gently.
      The Poet raised his eyes without any apparent haste and said with a sigh:
      “I’m a Saharan. I’m a Berber, madam.”
      “You look unhappy,” said the mistress dryly. “Now go back to the cooking-house. I forgot to ask you to build a fire in the oven. Wait! I’ll bring you a wick.”
      She went into the kitchen and came back with a copper bowl in which there was a lit wick soaked in oil. She gave the bowl to the Poet and said:
      “Be quick! The dough has risen.”
      The Poet bowed slightly and went toward the cooking-house.
      Things were now only too clear to the Poet. This scoundrel mistress here really meant to torment him. He was sure his face had betrayed all that he had tried to hide when the mistress had stood eyeing him. He believed he could only be wild about such a beauty. The goat-bleats again filled the air. But the mistress’ beauty filled the world. And there couldn’t be in the world a weapon more redoubtable than such a beauty. It would compel even the Amirs to surrender. And he simply was not the one to remain calm in the confusion of battle. The Poet was now in the cooking-house busy making the fire in the oven. But his mind was away. Alone his heart stayed with him. He could feel it was still in its place because it was burning his chest. And his mind reeled again when he recalled Sultana. He sighed deeply. The mistress had relieved him of the only heart he had, the heart he had selfishly reserved for Sultana. One could well say the mistress had already buried him alive and sat atop his grave.
      But there was still something of him that moved about on earth. When the fire was ready he went to tell the mistress.
      “And now,” the mistress said, “you have to throw the rubbish away.”
      She brought him from the kitchen a big pot full of brown water and a bag full of rubbish.
      “You know where to throw the rubbish?” the mistress asked.
      “Yes madam,” the Poet replied, taking the pot and the bag.
      “So go.”
      And the Poet went by the way of the stairs. “O Mother!” he thought as he moved on and sighed. “Why can’t I harden my heart? Why? The fire in my heart is fit to roast a bird!”
      The place where the Poet went, behind the washing-place, wore a neglected look. There were three big heaps of manure close to one another. A few trees unknown to the Poet stood here and there. Quite a big, but shallow mass of rubbish lay between the trees. A few birds, like larks and robins, flew from one side to another– warbling all along. Beyond the trees lay an unimpressive stretch of shrub-covered country interspersed with a few poor meadows and three isolated houses. The Poet glanced again at the space between the heaps of manure and thought that he couldn’t find a better place for a toilet. But this time he had to be quick. So he just poured out the waste-water and emptied the bag and flew back toward the kitchen, with a mind full of the mistress and a heart full of fire.
      The mistress seemed to have been waiting for him. A doom-palm tray lay on the ground at her feet. The Poet knew at first sight that the tray contained the bread to be baked in the oven. Now the mistress looked even more beautiful than when the Poet had last seen her. As soon as he had caught sight of her again, on his return from the rubbish-place, his heart roared once more. Her gentle look had the effect of a glare and her cheerful smile was incomprehensibly unbearable. “D’you you know what you’ll be doing now?” the mistress said, still smilingly. “You’ll take this tray to the cooking-house. I’ll bake the bread.” The Poet bowed and picked up the tray with trembling hands and set out for the cooking-house with the mistress following closely on his heels. And on the way there the Poet sighed three times but the mistress said nothing until both of them stopped at the door of the cooking-house. The mistress then faced the Poet and said as she took the tray from him:
      “Now go to your room, fetch the bowls which Haroon gave you, wash them at the well and take them back to the kitchen. Then go upstairs and resume the sweep. And when you feel I have finished baking the bread come to take it to the house.”
      “Right, madam,” replied the Poet, moving away with a trembling body.
      The Poet felt slighted. To be ordered so bluntly by a woman was an unprecedented event in his life. His mind flew back home. He again remembered Sultana’s beautiful smile and gentle voice. Sultana used to say to him, “Do as you like!” This mistress here seemed to say, “Do as you are bid!” But such was life. He was but a slave. He sighed. Ida came to his mind. “You will see!” she had threatened him. And he had already seen too much. “O Salman! Try to forget!” the Poet advised himself ruefully. “Don’t worry yourself to death!”
      The Poet washed the two bowls and put them down at the door of the kitchen, before he went upstairs to resume the sweep. The sun was about to set. When the Poet was nearing the other end of the balcony, he started at the sound of a man’s sneeze. The wooden door of the room whence the sneeze had come was closed. The Poet could not open it to see who was in there. He remembered that the mistress was waiting for him at the cooking-house. So he dropped the broom and went wearily toward her. And on the way his mind travelled quickly over the recent events. After all, he thought, his life had run quite smoothly up to now. The worst that he had dreaded after the trial, namely castration, had not yet happened.
      “Excuse me, madam,” the Poet asked his mistress as they were coming from the cooking-house, with himself carrying the tray close to his chest, “I heard a man’s sneeze upstairs?”
      The mistress smiled and said:
      “That’s the old slave. He’ll be gone by nightfall. I see you are a coward. But I don’t see why you should fear us. We are not ghouls, I suppose?”
      The Poet couldn’t find the right words to reply. So he preferred silence.
      “Have you been married?” the mistress asked, suddenly.
      “Yes, madam,” replied the Poet, surprised by his mistress’ question.
      “What was your wife’s name?” the mistress asked again, looking curious.
      “Sultanana!” the Poet replied with a sigh. He waited for other questions, although he couldn’t understand what the mistress was aiming at. But there were no more questions. “Go to your work,” the mistress ordered him as they reached the kitchen.


      The Poet now recalled words he had heard from his deceased father and had intentionally tried to stow away somewhere in the remotest parts of his mind. “You need not only to make a good poet,” his father had warned him. “You’ll have to be a true man. And not a man with a womanly heart… ” The Poet felt deeply ashamed. He knew all through he was an out-and-out coward. But he didn’t know how to acquire a manly heart. In a sense, he blamed his father, who had not taught him how to acquit himself like a true man in such a situation… As night was falling, the Poet was getting into a muddle. He had done the balcony and begun the courtyard. But this was absurd to him. Who in the world would sweep a floor in darkness? It was not dark yet, but the light was beginning to fail and it would be dark soon, very soon! In his heart of hearts, the Poet was willing to explode. But what for? No, he thought, this was still really ridiculous. He should not be a man with a womanly heart. Why not go and ask the master what to do? He hesitated. This was not easy to do. Suddenly, he burst out: “I swear by Allah I shall go, cost whatever it costs!” This was the first step. He could not go back on his word; otherwise he would have to fast three days. He mustered enough courage and went forth. He stopped by Haroon’s door and coughed once. His heart beat violently as he waited. He coughed again, louder. “What do you want?” the master thundered. The Poet was thrilled with horror, but his back remained glued to the wall. The master came out to him and growled: “What do you want?” “I only meant to ask you, Sir, whether I’ll do this floor tonight?” the Poet stuttered, shivering. The master’s immediate reply was a buffet with the palm of his hand on the Poet’s forehead. “Go back to your room, you wretched creature!” the master scoffed. “And don’t sleep before you shut the entry door. And never come again to disturb me in my room. Go! Go to Hell!” The Poet bowed and flew away, with a shattered heart. He gathered up the sweeping tools, took them back to the toolroom and returned to his room.
      It took a while before the Poet’s anger subsided. What Haroon had done was galling. But the Poet had not gone as far as to invoke vengeance on his master. He had blamed his own incredulous, ingrained cowardice. That was the real responsible for all his misfortunes. But for it he wouldn’t have lost his wife, his home, his family and his freedom.
      The poet was fearfully tired now. He was about to succumb to sleep when a loud, vibrating bell-ring and a flow of wild barks startled him. He remembered what the mistress had told him. The time had probably come for the old slave to go. Now, he was sure. He heard neighs and a male voice other than Haroon’s, calling across the courtyard. “Water, please!” it said. Then there was perfect silence for a moment. The Poet was at a loss. Should he go out and have a look? Or stay in his room and wait? His heart throbbed. So far he preferred staying. “What if I went out only to be slapped?” he thought. His fears increased with each passing minute. The night was dark and cold. Although the Poet had never been gregarious, he now began to resent loneliness. He needed someone just now and here to tell him what to do. Things would have probably been easier for him had he found before him a large staff of servants. He again recalled his father’s advice, to which he had paid scant attention. Once upon a time, he had been showered with praise. Now, he was but a miserable slave… Would he go out now? He thought and decided. No, he wouldn’t leave his bed. The barks came back. “No, I won’t go out,” he insisted. “In either case I can’t predict where my safety is,” he thought. His mind wandered back to what had happened to him in the last few weeks. He had always known that he was a coward. But he had never imagined that his cowardice would one day lead him to such a state. He had suddenly realized that he had been leading a life of smug respectability. He had enjoyed fame and money. But that had now proved not enough.
      Now, the Poet rose suddenly. He would go out. This time to close the entry door, as the master had bidden him. He mumbled a few prayers and left the room, bare-haired. There was perfect silence. There was nobody by the entry door. The Poet went downstairs. His heart throbbed. He glanced at Haroon’s room and saw a light stretching a little way round the doorway. The room’s windows were shut. The Poet looked up at the balcony on his left then right, and then he walked slowly toward the entry door. He glanced at the kitchen-door. It was closed but a faint light could be seen from under the door. The Poet reached the entry door and found it closed. So what had the master meant by ‘closing the entry door’? Should he go again to ask the master what to do, how to close the entry door? No. The master had warned him. So he just turned and faced the direction of Haroon’s room and stood thinking. The first thing that came next to his mind was the mistress’ face and body. His loins burned alongside with his heart. He felt a strange envy of Haroon. His back bent to lean against the entry door  but he remembered suddenly that he had to decide. “I should go back to my room,” he thought. And he moved immediately back toward his room. But as he was nearing the stairs he heard the mistress calling loudly: “Wait!” He waited. The mistress appeared at the door and the Poet tottered over toward her. For him, she was but a specious person– like her husband. But her imposing beautiful face so dazzled his vision that he couldn’t know what side of his mind he should believe or what voice of his heart he should hearken to. In any event he couldn’t shut his eyes to such a beauty. This beauty was enough to make him bear no rancour against either the mistress or her husband. And he knew this was wrong with him. But this was not the right time to put himself through a self-analysis.
      “What were you doing here now,” the mistress asked, after she had stood eyeing the Poet for a while.
      “Mr Haroon had asked me to close the entry door before I go to sleep,” the Poet replied shyly. “And I went to close it, but I found it closed.”
      The mistress grinned and said gently:
      “Yes, it’s closed. Go to your room and after an hour from now come down to get your dinner.”
      The mistress grinned again, and the Poet shuffled away toward his room, with a calmer heart. He had appreciated the mistress’ reply. She had not scoffed at him and she had promised him a dinner. 
      The Poet had been awed by the mistress’ tone and words when he last saw her. He was now lying in bed thinking of nothing but that strange woman. Strange because she looked too kind for a mistress and too hard to be trusted. Her beauty alone would have been enough by far for her to be a thought harder than that. And she was the mistress, too! But she was kind at moments. The Poet noticed that this woman had pronounced the   s   sound more than once. Probably that was normal for some Jews. But what he couldn’t understand was her questions about his own origins and his wife’s name. Maybe he would know later on. But how long would he stay here? And why had he been chosen to replace that old slave? Questions. His heart didn’t want questions now. The darkness made him think of something else. He had never seen such a beauty before. And now she was downstairs, in Haroon’s room. He tried to imagine the scene. Somehow he wished the mistress’ charm had been one of his own wife. Sultana! He sighed. His mind went back home. He remembered his nights with Sultana. He sighed again. But soon his mind returned to Haroon’s house. To Haroon’s room. To his wife. He tried to imagine the future. But what he imagined was impossible.
      As the time passed, the Poet found himself fighting on two fronts. He had to fight down both sleep and his own concupiscence. In the meantime, his mind went constantly from the mistress to his wife and back to the mistress. In a way, the cold had helped him stay awake so far but it, at the same time, stirred his fierce concupiscence. So instead of surrendering to the powerful Sleep and the uncompromising Concupiscence, the Poet preferred to pull out. He went out of the room and waited in the balcony until the hour appointed for the receipt of his dinner. When the hour came, he went downstairs and stood near Haroon’s room. He waited for the mistress to appear at the door. But it seemed she had forgotten all about him. She was still laughing and chatting amiably with her husband. The Poet was growing green with envy. But he couldn’t dare get closer to that notorious door. He couldn’t cough to indicate his presence. He couldn’t go back to his room. He couldn’t run away. So he waited in the cold. At long last, the mistress appeared at the door with a bowl in her hands. “Come,” said she. The Poet flew to her. He took the bowl which his mistress handed to him without speaking a word, and he went back to his room. He sat on the mat and put the bowl in front of him and began to eat from it in complete darkness.
      After dinner, the Poet nestled in his bed and wrapped his shivering body in the three sheets available. He was exhausted. A few thoughts about the mistress, the master, his homeland and his wife followed on the heels of one another in his mind but he soon yielded to a deep sleep. His sleep was indeed deep and well deserved. But it did not last long. The mid-night cold was strong enough to rouse him. And as he woke up, he found himself thinking of Sultana. There was only another thing, one more important thing, that occupied his mind now. He wanted to go out to relieve himself. This was utterly urgent. So urgent that he wouldn’t even need a permission from his master. Even the thought of Sultana was evanescent now. He thought again and again about the consequences of going out without permission. But compared to what he had done in his cell in Lehreem, going out now would be by far more reasonable. So he could not but choose to go. He rose from the bed and felt about for his shoes and stood up and left the room. He tried to master his fear. He stood in the balcony until his heart became a little hardier. Then he thought it necessary to go downstairs first to make sure that the master was sleeping. He went downstairs and tiptoed discretely to Haroon’s room. His heart throbbed. He stopped by that room’s door and listened. There was perfect silence. So he tiptoed back toward the stairs and went up and descended the backstairs and opened the rear door carefully. “What if the master caught me down there?” he thought. “Phew! Am I not a man like himself?” He stopped at the well and sat on its coping. It was cold, but this didn’t matter now, since he could still master his bowels for a few more moments. He wanted to feel freedom, the freedom he had lost three weeks before. “I shall not stay like this,” he muttered. “I am sure. One day I shall be free again. No. I won’t run away now. This is a good chance for me to make a change. I am now a slave of fear, of beauty, of my past. This must not continue like this. Oh why? Why should I at the age of thirty behave like a boy of thirteen? Where’s what I talked about in my poems? No, I must make a change.” When the Poet was muttering these words to himself his heart was burning like a wick at the head of a lit candle. “Now,” he thought soon afterwards, “I should perform my ablutions.” And he sighed. It was quite a long time since he had not performed his daily prayers. So he rose up and drew water from the well and filled a small pot and moved cautiously toward the rubbish-place.
      The world outside Haroon’s compound was full of freedom. The temptation to abscond was fierce but the Poet resisted. He thought it was too early to run away now. True, the nearby town must be inhabited mainly by Muslims. But the Poet now no longer trusted anybody. After such quick thoughts, he went into the space between the heaps of manure and relieved himself. He used some of the water and left the place. He returned into the compound and performed his ablutions in the washing-place. He remembered he was still in a state of major ritual impurity. But it didn’t matter. He would perform the tayammum.
      After the ablutions, the Poet hastened to get back to his room. He was shivering with cold. Now, he did not waste time. He performed the tayammum and began his prayers. He said only the five prayers of that day and went back to his bed to warm up his body. In bed, he thought for a while but he was soon asleep. 

Mohamed Ali LAGOUADER


No comments: