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by Daniah Lababidi
Through a labyrinth of narrow twisting alleyways
where rooftops stand erect at kissing distance,
and cobblestones line the rutted streets,
the Old City of Damascus thrives in regal posture.

Merchants, pushing laden barrows, compete by day for
the right of passage through splendid mosques and khans.
The air, flooded by pungent aromas of spice and sweets,
entwines the past and present in a heady mixture.

As night spreads darkness across a fiery sky,
men seek their nightly respite at the coffeehouse,
nestled in the shadows of the Ummayad Mosque.
Biding time over a backgammon's rolling dice.

Winners and losers bellow their luck in rousing cries
as scores of coffee and tea cups clutter round tables.
Silence upon his entry... the game is forgotten.

Clad in a 'jilabiya' of fine silk threaded in gold
he sits upon his throne flanked by wooden chairs.
The Hakawati begins to recite the courage of ancient warriors.

Pulling his audience into tales so deftly told
he stands, while acting the poor helpless maiden,
reciting poetry,
then roaring loudly as her gallant savior.

He drags the tale out, till the nights have counted a year
then ends it with a new beginning... addicting his public
to return for yet another adventure.

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Copyright © 2004 by Daniah Lababidi. All rights reserved.