Malika Al Jazeera – Queen of the Islands

Malika Al Jazeera – Queen of the Islands

“Malika AL Jazeera: Queen of the Islands”

There is the legend of the

Queen of the Islands,

Malika Al Jazeera,

A myth…. or, so

I believed…

till one moon inspired

night in the labyrinth of Algiers.

 

“La Belle Dame Algiers”

I sailed along the Berber coast,

past the shores of Tangiers and

the caves of Hercules, veering

 

off the cape of Oran, until

a storm wrecked my boat on

the jagged shoals of Algiers.

 

I staggered to shore

and waited for the storm to pass.

A light appeared from the distant villa,

 

the curtains blew back and

a woman stood on the balcony

dressed in white djellaba.

 

The fragrance of jasmine drew

me towards the villa in the Casbah.

 

An old Berber woman with tattoos

of the high Atlas, opened the door

with the hand of Fatima, the sign of fate.

 

“Bienvenue. Ahlan wa Sahalan bik.”

 

She lead me inside to a marble

hammam with mosaics and tile,

steaming hot from the waters.

 

The sounds of the Oud in

a minor dream led me

further in the labyrinth.

 

The woman in the window

walked into the marble Hammam

 

We sipped mint tea,

ate dates from the

oasis of Ourgala.

 

“Yes,” she said. “Love is remembrance,

allow the sensation to melt on your tongue.”

 

I could not refuse her gracious

invitation to love …

as we ventured into the maze of memories

 

Her silk  robe fell

like lotus blossoms in the April breeze

 

My lady of the Islands laid me down

on the warm mosaic stone and

massaged this traveler’s aching bones

 

… we soaked in the hot steaming

waters scented with lavender and  juniper

 

rose petals from Blida

voluptuous scarlet roses

strewn in the waters.

 

We were Layla and Mejnoon,

but I was the mad one, driven

to madness by your loving.

 

My body washed and rubbed

with the red ocher henna.

then soothed by your touch

 

The oud with Andalusian melodies

filtered from the street below

sifting like a stream of light.

 

Pigeons cooed and evening prayer call

danced like grace notes,

in a minor arpeggio.

 

My calloused hands caressed

valleys of tenderness

with frankincense oils from Yemen.

 

Our fingers eagerly

unwound the knotted spools

of memory and pain.

 

My tongue discovers

bitter and sweet,

as I caress the perfect pearl.

 

I savored

the ocean of  your loving

melting under my tongue.

.

She whispered, “Love redeems all our pain,

even the pain too bitter to surrender.”

 

Moonlight danced across the sky

thru the trace of clouds.

and glanced on her luminous brown eyes.

 

We sat in the oriel leaning

against silk pillows from Fez,

and smoked a dram of opium.

 

The sweet embers glowed and we slipped

into the skiff of memories….

 

She sang me a song about a Lady from Algiers

whose lovers brought her purple robes from Lebanon

and pearls from Oman.

 

She sang of soldiers who came to these shores

broken by war and mended  with  love,

and sanctified in the waters of Lethe.

 

We sailed fearlessly from

this shore of knowing

into the wider sea of  loving.

 

“Love is discovery and remembrance. N’est-ce pas?

she laughed and we sailed further

past the first light of the Maghrebia.

 

At dawn, I was awakened by prayer calls

from the Ketchouia Mosque at the edge of

the Casbah.

 

Wood fires lit in the haze of dawn

and the smell of bread baking filled the air.

 

I awoke alone and wrapped

in her silk white robes.

In the time of death and birth

we are swaddled and reborn.

 

What was born

on that night?

What died and surrendered

in the memory of loving?

 

My most gracious and tender

la Belle Dame

My beautiful lady

of the Island
Je t’aime

toujour ma belle dame

 

La belle dame de l’Algérie

Malika Al Jazeera

My Queen of the Islands.

 

How could I have ever left you?

 

p.s.

I had started writing this in Algiers in 2015. We were were hosted by our dear Algerian family the Lahrechs.  All the many people were met in Algeria were so gracious, kind, and amazingly hospitable.  I only really understood the poem after finishing it. Yes, it is a tale that hearkens back the Odyssey, and the heroic journey, but is wholly based on my journeys through the Islamic world from North Africa to Indonesia and points in between. It is a love poem to the many beautiful memories of those whom I have loved.  To my many friends throughout the Islamic world, i am indebted for your kindness and affection. I have left my homes in Yemen, Morocco, and Algiers but I always keep you close in my heart and memory.

by Namaya March 2017  www.namayaproductions.com

 

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