MALIKA AL JAZEERA: QUEEN of the ISLANDS – by Namaya

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 welcomed

me at the gate that had the

silver hand of Fatima.

 

“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.

 

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 Maghrabia.

 

At dawn, I was awakened by prayer call

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

I           n 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?

 

Namaya

 

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