For Elizabeth Bishop
~ I want to understand the geography textbook ~
Streets caked with dust and cat piss,
Blood from the knee of some kid who fell off a bike,
Spittle from some gentleman walking his date.
Streets bristling with DNA.
Lined with baqalas.
Their fluorescent lights attracting residents like moths.
Laban and chips on a breezy autumn evening.
Sour, but just enough.
Drunk people (don’t tell anyone)
With scrunched hair and shirts thin as rice paper,
Stand in the dark alleys.
Escorts and promises of nights with partially clad women.
Kids stepping on them
In a weird game of hop-scotch.
The ships of the desert.
Lumpy dumpy dee dee
Lumpy bumpity bee
Heffalumpy like me
Majestic and at once like a child.
A welcome sight on the yellow sands.
Yellow camels on shelves,
At souvenir kiosks.
What if a heffalump was a camel?
war had been declared
by intellectuals sipping coffee.
they run away from predatory eyes
to high mountains
of academic pursuits, of course.
a cascading white chaos.
neat, tall stones wait to be discovered.
Your baobab trees are not as big as mine.
Your planet, small.
Where is your rose?
Do you still love her?
I forgot mine, a long time ago.
I grew up in a land of heffalumps,
With sand in my pockets and hair.
My rose was beautiful too.
She forgot me and I her,
When I grew up.
*Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Artwork by Daria Hlazatova