Friday, 19 December 2014

The Poet : Chapter Two


The Poet was lying on his right side, leaning his head against the palm of his hand. His eyes remained fixed on the candle placed on the back of an iron plate in the middle of the room.

      At a time, the manuscrïpts caught his attention. The Amir was expecting him to prepare something good to listen to in the presence of important guests. So he kept on gazing at the manuscrïpts until the weary flame of the candle faded away.

      Sleep had simply failed to close his lids. It became hard for him to remain where he was now reclining awkwardly. So he gathered himself and stood up. He blundered towards the room door and out to the narrow corridor leading to the front door. In a minute he was out in the open. He felt the fine breeze’s gentle touch. He looked up at the sky: the moon was there, surrounded by glowing stars. The moonlight surprised him– as if he had just discovered it for the first time. It made him feel as if he were just sitting in a room lit by an Oriental candle. He could see quite everything clearly. He glanced at the moon, and then at his brother’s house and at the camel sleeping against the trunk of a palm-tree. He took a few steps onward, and soon was on his way to the stream. He was sure he would not find a single soul on his way. He in fact wanted to see no one. He wanted to think, and dream, freely. He was happy for one thing: even the palm-trees were silent. They remained silent until he reached the bank of the stream. He sat quietly in the shade of a palm-tree and faced the stream that came flowing, burbling, gaily– indifferent  to his smoldering passions. His eyes began to travel between the bushy slopes on both sides of the stream and the glowing moon and stars mirrored in the charming water on the merry stream. “I wish I were just like you, beautiful Lehreeml!” he mused to himself, thinking of how that could ever be possible. The Lehreem stream had always charmed him, but had never told him any of the secrets of its gripping charm. Yet, he kept on clinging to that uncertain wish of resembling it in some of its good ways.
      The Poet usually came here, very often on moonlit nights. He would come here to contemplate the stream, the sky and all of the sleeping world around. He even sometimes succumbed to slumber and lay asleep in the bush for the rest of the night. Whether awake or asleep, he would often dream only nice dreams. He did not care whether his dreams would ever come true: all that would matter to him was to dream and dream and dream. That was his best –if not, the only– way to speak his mind in a world where the rights of thinking and of speech were confined to those who mastered the art of lying. The Princes of Hypocrisy, as he called them. He never wished to be one of these– although he kept on wondering whether he was not actually already one.
      The Poet did not wait long to feel the weight of sleep come upon him. He did not fight it back. He simply lost control of his muscles: he slept in the bush.


      Sunrise found the Poet still asleep. It was only the bleat of a stray nanny-goat that came to awaken him. When he opened his eyes, his heart roared with joy. He looked first at the blue sky above, then at the stream a little way down, and at the dewy bush around. He felt free and happy. The stray nanny-goat was still bleating. The Poet darted a tender look at it; it stood aloof gazing at him in such a way he came to wonder why. He smiled, and kept on smiling till there came a silken feminine voice to shake him up. It was a child who had come in search of the nanny-goat. The child –a pretty young girl– was startled to see the Poet gazing at her so enticingly. So, she just let out a queer, little cry, and disappeared beyond the trees. The nanny-goat cast a last glance at the Poet and turned to follow the track of the little shepherd. The Poet released a light laugh he had quelled in his heart, and rose slowly– sighing all along. His gown was thoroughly wet. Brown stains filled it all. Even his beard did not look that good. His tough leather shoes were so heavy that he seemed as though waddling across the bush out to the path that would take him back home.
      At home, the Poet had a quick bath, put on clean clothes and went into the prayer-room to perform his Morning Prayer. Then, he moved about to prepare breakfast. Suddenly, a gentle tap startled him. He left the kitchen and rushed out to see who was at the door. He found a woman: the Amira. 
      “May I go in ?” she asked gently.
      “You?”
      “Yes, it's me!” the Amira replied quite confidently. “Why do you look so abashed? Why are you looking at me with protruding eyes? Am I not welcome?”
      “Oh yes, you are welcome!” the Poet replied nervously.
      “May I go in, then?”
      The Poet made a gesture in response, inviting the Amira in. This graceful lady could not help laughing at seeing the Poet tremble so awkwardly.
      When she entered, sure-footedly, the Poet locked the door and leaned his back against it.
      “Won’t you light the house for me?” said the Amira. “I can hardly see your eyes and do wonder whether you can at all see mine in this cave!”
      “What do you want?” the Poet burst out grumpily.
      The Amira took slow but firm steps towards him. She lifted her fine, small hands up to his cheeks in an attempt to allay his fear, but she only enhanced it instead. When the Poet felt the Amira’s hands fumbling for his, which were clutching the door-handle behind his burning loins, he forced himself to utter a painful, low cry. The Amira was so seriously startled that she found herself, as if in a dream, lying against the Poet’s chest. The Poet eventually liberated his hands and lifted them up to the Amira’s face. He caressed her cheeks, and then grabbed her hands– which were now almost burning. It was not dark, as the Amira had suggested. The Poet could see her features quite clearly.
      “What do you want, your Grace?” the Poet asked, very calmly– to the Amira’s great surprise.
      “I want nothing but you,” she murmured, with a look of entreaty on her beautiful face.
      “What?”
      The Amira withdrew a few paces backward, and waited till she regained her breath, before she spoke.
      “Salman,” she said with a sultry smile, “you know everything!”
      “What do you want?” the Poet retorted, looking at the Amira quite threateningly now.
      “I want to marry you.”
      “What! But you are married!”
      “I’ve never loved the one who married me,” the Amira replied in hasty explanation.
      “I don’t care whether you love him or not, but that’s a fact. I cannot marry a woman who is already married. Thousands of times I’ve told you I can’t. Besides, how could such a marriage be possible? Just tell me?”
      “Let’s elope!”
      “What! Elope? Are you crazy? O listen, your Grace–”
      “Please: my name is Ida!”
      “Oh listen, Ida. Think of another thing. Marriage is just as impossible–”
      “No! If we eloped that would be possible. Listen, Salman. There’s no other way.”
      The Poet forced himself to ponder over the matter for a while. Then, he said with a puckish smile:
      “I have a condition.”
      “What is it? Ask whatever you want, I shall never disappoint you! Just say!”
      “You liberate Sultana. She must go with us.”
      “No!” the Amira burst out. “That’s just impossible!”
      “Why?”
      “I know your tricks!”
      “Anyway, you and I shall never agree. There’s a gap neither your Grace nor I will ever be able to bridge.”
      “You will bridge it one day,” the Amira barked at him. “As to Sultana, you will see how I will make her pay for it. Open the door!”
      The Poet opened it at once, and stepped out to see whether there was anybody around. There was none. The Amira went out and flew east. The Poet stood by the door contemplating the wavering pink of her gown and the lustrous purple of her stole. His body was shaking all over, his heart beating harder than ever before.

Mohamed Ali LAGOUADER

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