A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Today I go to the spice-sellers’ lot with my mother
So that once more I can look at specks of the sun
Pouring down from a skylight into the dark bazaar.
I ask her: “Can I poke my pinkie
Into this waterfall of light?”
Mother stops at the fragrant threshold of a small shop
And I look at the green skullcap of the spice-seller
Who takes his first step
To put a white sugar-cheese-
And a red barberry-candy in my fist.
Mother wants cinnamon and cardamom for the tea pot,
Saffron, turmeric and cumin for the pilaf platter,
Clove and ginger for ginger cookies
And vanilla for home-made ice cream.
The man wraps the items in paper
And puts them in Mother’s basket.
I am filled with scent and color
And look at my red candy rooster
Perched on his slender stick
And shrinking with each of my licks
Until it totally disappears
Before we reach the bazaar square.
Mother has forgotten pepper:
The king of spices
With a red cape on its shoulders.
We return to where we started.
A camel driver is standing
With a rein in his hand
Near a bazaar courtyard.
A male camel stretches his neck
To look at me
behind his long shady lashes.
His big lips are trembling.
“Camel! Who are you bullying?
I can pass under your belly
Without letting your misshaped legs
Smash me on the ground.”
Mother says that they come from Bushehr Port
Where Arab and Indian sailors
Unload Malabar’s pepper, Ceylon’s cinnamon
And Zanzibar’s ginger from their barges
So that the sharveh-singing* camel drivers of Dashtestan
Can carry them across the sandy desert of Loot.
The man puts the package of pepper in the basket.
I fling the empty stick of my rooster
Toward a baby camel
Walking behind the caravan.
I smile at my mother who like me
Has good nostrils.
* “Sharveh” is a sad style of song in the Bushehr province to the north of the Persian Gulf. It has some similarities with African-American Blues.
Copyright 2017 Majid Naficy
Majid Naficy is the author of many books in English and Persian, including Father & Son published by Red Hen.