Mudlark No. 41 (2010)

In Rabat and Singapore

Only those Helmuts, those Marias and Ralphs
can know how it was those years
in Karachi, in Phnom Penh and Pretoria.
Only those Sharons, those Thors and Emmas,
transients, venturers, personae —
advisers on agriculture or economics,
grantees in linguistics or anthropology,
visiting professors,
suspected operatives of dark agencies  —
only they know how charged with intrigue it was
in Nairobi, in Kuala Lumpur and Ankara,
the streets jostling, bizarre, equivocal
beneath the hooded eyes of the police,
the foreign services intent on their policies,
the cartels obsessing on their markets.
Only those Reggies, those Davids and Ginas,
biorhythmic and susceptible,
their sensibilities formed in distant hemispheres,
only they can know how disturbing,
how secluding and dejecting it was those years,
despite fleeting native acquaintances
in Surabaja, in Niamey and Lahore,
sociologies that did not candidly articulate,
that divulged themselves in random instances —
a wedding turban in a shop window,
a yellow bracelet on the horn of an ox,
a muezzin on loudspeakers,
a bamboo bird cage,
kabob stall,
stilt shacks by the river.

Oliver Rice | Mudlark No. 41 (2010)
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