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.