Just Wanna Know

Revolutionary Propaganda Organ

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Men Leaving the Friday Afternoon Mosque

I remember Tamale
Blazing bright light
Blinding white robes meet black hands and faces
Tall proud against brown walls and rusty red tin roofs
Polished black shoes pushing through red dust
The Walk – slow, regal, yet easy, comfortable
A head thrown back laughing
I feel proud too, and envious.

I remember Beirut
Warm light on tall pockmarked buildings
The south side of town
Dark hair and light faces
Walk out quickly, upset, impatient
Street and business clothes
Slacks, belts, long-sleeved shirts
I feel close to panic.

I see Tangier
Weak light in the muggy air
Traffic jam outside the Cervantes Center
Shania croons about any man of hers
East Asian, West African, Gulf Arab in red checked kufiyya
Young European with thin face and reddish blond cheek fuzz
Dads laugh joke pull along chubby toddlers
A baseball cap and a gray jellaba
Givenchy and Gauthier
T-shirt and baggy faded jeans
I feel invigorated.

Then a royal blue royal police van creeps up the street
And ends my reverie

I just got this down yesterday. It's not very subtle or polished. The first two sections are culled from my failing memory: Tamale, Northern Ghana, around the early 1980s, and Beirut in 1998. I was a little kid in Tamale going by looking out the window of the car. Beirut was on my failed attempt to get into the National Museum my third day in any Arab country ever. With no Arabic, I walked all the way from Hamra to the old race track and saw that the museum was still closed, so I started walking back through the residential parts of town. The Tangier scene is from yesterday, sitting at the Glasgow Cafe. Yes, "Any Man of Mine/Better Walk the Line" really did come on the cafe's sound system exactly as the mosque let out.

The last two lines mark my remembering that this mosque is attached to the regional headquarters of the ministry of Islamic studies, as well as a seminary and school.


At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Barbara said...

John, thank you for this. I am trying to use some literary form (novel, poety) in each of my mss chapters...of course, I am wanting them from with the cultures, but this seems very--is liminal the right word?--suspended on the edge, not quite in but almost?

At 9:25 AM, Blogger John Schaefer said...

Oh Barb, not in, please! It's just my own little story, and not a very good one.

Thanks for the compliment, though!

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Barbara said...

No, not in, mostly because I am using Muslims' own works. If you could direct me to some conversion (to Islam) accounts, I'd be so appreciative because I have decided in this revision (to a book, not a study) to include those as well. Malcolm X's trip to Mecca account worked perfectly for my Isaac/Ishmael chapter, the only "study" chapter I've completed. (The first is on dialogue and the second, somewhat innovative, I think, looks at whether it is "cricket" to apply inductive study methods to the Q. I'm just putting in my second draft editing corrections today so I can bring these chapters with me when I (hopefully!!!) will be moving K to a better home in the "Mecca" of the midwest :) It's nip and tuck as to whether I'll make it as I don't do as well without sleep as you do.


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