We flew to Marrakech one January –
from dark, frosty, early morning Gatwick
to a view of the sun on the snow-topped
Atlas Mountains. Barely six hours from home,
we were in the Souk – ‘La shukran! Non merci!’ –
avoiding the blandishments, noting
the bartering and the credit cards. Relieved,
we emerged into the Jemaa el Fna,
the Marrakech Medina’s vast square,
with water-sellers, jugglers, magicians,
henna tattooists with their sample books,
peddlers of herbal medicines, dancing boys,
acrobats, story-tellers, traders of
mint, dates, olives, kumquats, lemons, cumin,
the ancient start and end of caravans
south and east across the Sahara.
Suddenly, in all that charivari,
you heard a charmer’s flute. ‘Cobras!’ you cried
and rushed unwarily away, me
hurrying after. You stopped – the flute now
out of earshot – only for a macaque
monkey, dressed in a powder blue suit
and a fez, to tap you on the shoulder.
The monkey was chained and the snake, no doubt,
de-fanged but I could not relieve your fear.
Love has its short term limitations.
You were lost and found and lost again
between the monkey and the snake.
Then the plangent notes of the mid-day call
to prayer sang from the city’s seven mosques
and you were found again in sudden beauty.
Note: The poem has subsequently been published at
acrobatsAtlas Mountainsbarteringbeautycaravanscharivaricobracredit cardscumindancing boysdatesde-fangedfezfluteGatwickhennaherbal medicinesJanuaryJemaa el Fnajugglerskumquatslemonsmacaque monkeymagiciansMarrakechMedinamintmonkeymosque call to prayerolivespeddlersplangentSaharasample bookssnakesnow-toppedSoukstory-tellerstattooiststraderswater-sellers