Somewhere in the Bakbouka by Tristan Moss


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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