Without insulting where a boy's once went
Forty-approaching-fifty years ago?
Not love. Not sex. Been there and got the grief.
There's nothing left in that line to invent,
Or improvise. The map on the flyleaf
Of a book about Morocco drew me in
To mounted gownie-men, hard-riding Rif
Fighting the footsore French Foreign Legion
In sketched mountains, with drawn passes, peaks,
Oases, date palms, a walled and towered town.
Perusing a map was one of my techniques
For getting the hell out of the parish
Of Inchinnan and its reductive keeks
Into a larger world. I made a wish.
I dropped my penny in the well of dreams,
Into a deep, dark, distant, delayed splash.
The world was everything that thinks and seems
When I was twelve years old and dogging off
Into a free mind, writing reams and reams--
Invisible paper, invisible ink--my huff
A truancy from self as much as school.
"Why do you think so much of poetry, Prof?"--
I don't. It's the obsession of a Fool
For circumstance, an accidental cry
Before the stocks and mocks of ridicule
Without an answer to the question "Why?"
Off, then, to Agadir, Fez, Marrakesh,
To white-walled forts beneath Saharan sky,
Tall, sizzling tagines, and heaped bowls of fresh
Dates, oranges, the Kasbahs of Rabat,
Tangier, and Casablanca, ancient Meknes,
Volubilis, Sale, and Ourzazat.
`As Time Goes By' ... No re-make's probable!
Ah, Casablanca, there's no copycat
Director could re-do how Bogie's skill
Turned cynicism upside-down, said `love'
Without the saying of it but the thrill-"Here's
looking at you, kid,"--as if to prove
Devotion, loyalty, above intrigue,
And virtue something that--well, just rubs off
From cut-price black-and-white cafe fatigue,
Booze, smokes, tuxedos. By the final scene
They'd overshot the budget. Some bigwig
Demanded savings. On the silver screen
It's all illusion anyway. They faked
A one-dimensional getaway plane
Built out of struts and canvas, a half-baked
Stunt of cheap joinery, using midgets
In long-shot--lyrical heartbreak
Forged by dwarfs and skinflint deficits.
I go by stamps, by the Sherifian post.
I go by Gandon's designs, and make my visits
To remote oases, to the farthermost
Ramparted cities, gardens, empty coast,
Sifted Sahara measuring the minutes,
And fountained courtyards where I meet a ghost
Under a palm. She says, "Let's call it quits."