Mélange Poetry of Place

Hind calls me mélange with a smile —
but on a crooked side street she likes my accent
and in the hammam she tells me I scrub like the Moroccans do

Her father and I cannot speak
in this house in the Ocean,
but he taps the table
when the sheep in the loft looks at me
and points to the cages
when the yellow birds sing

Gentle shriveled smile of dried fruit
He asks how many hours
from San Francisco to Rabat?
and how do you say in Spanish? and he points
borrego — borrego
until he gets it right
I think I have been here before,
inhale of ammonia and livestock,
folded hands on stained tablecloth

In the prayer room,
I speak French braids,
Hind’s hair thick and oily
tangled like the medina,
Kerima’s soft and clean
from the shower in the new apartment in Salé,
and Saida’s is long, long, long
falling from her head scarf in waves
(the women laugh when I am surprised)

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