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Somewhere in the Bakbouka by Tristan Moss

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Somewhere in the Bakbouka

A pluck of the oud,
and lies start to harmonise
with truth,
past fortresses, snake charmers, caravans …
past the burnt out cars on the roadsides …
the viscous melancholy of oil,
seagulls slipping while trying to spread their wings,

to a pot of Bakbouka above a campfire,
the desert night closing in.

. . . . .

On the stove,
turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, chilli
the faded colours of our kilim,
rescued from a shanty town
of old dusty tins
high up on a shelf in the pantry.

Lamb fat dissolves,
marrow melts, flesh falls
into tomatoes, onion, spice, salt;
the rich red sauce thickening,
pools of oil rolling on its surface.

He inhales deeply.
‘Something of home’ he says,
the bakbouka murmuring
of Sabkhas, and a lemon-green sea.

‘Years ago’, he tells me,
‘anything you had could go in’.
A cauldron of possibilities
before the limits of dogma.

Last of all the pasta cooks
in the unctuous sauce
with the bak-bak-bou-ka
of bubbles rising and bursting:
Berber, Arab, Italian
all trying to have their say.

I loved that he was a Muslim
who ate chorizo,
and left behind
a thousand years of guilt;

that the oud’s song
had accompanied him
all the way to York.

But eventually
Gaddafi had succeeded
in transplanting
someone else’s benevolent smile
into his eyes.

.

Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two young children. He has recently had poems published in SnakeskinLighten Up Online, Open Mouse, and Picaroon Poetry.
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