It is dusty and kiln-dried,
mid-way along the scorched crooked spine
of the Moroccan Atlas Range I’ve been trekking.
Humps of browned, barren hills spread stuporous
under a blistering solar assault, and not a breeze is stirring.
In the middle of the rocky dirt road I’ve wandered down,
seven young Berber boys stand in my way,
their beseeching hands reaching out to me,
their eyes imploring me for something, anything.
They offer me bottle caps and bits of rope, in exchange
for whatever I might be willing to barter or even give away.
Above them, lifted on the thermal currents,
large black carrion birds lazily circle over the baking yurts
these impoverished children’s families call home.
They are nomads not unlike myself,
roaming through the furnace of this arid land,
with their shaggy goats and worn blankets,
dirty faces and tattered clothes.
Now their desperately hopeful eyes impale me.
I can almost see behind those eyes,
and what I see caves in my heart.
What is seen is the one who sees,
and the one who sees is the one I am.
There are some mangy little mutt dogs by the roadside,
their tongues drooping from listless jaws in the suffocating heat,
panting, panting, and the relentless flies . . .
These omnipresent insects are thick amidst wafting aromas
of cracked wheat from the threshing circle in the near distance
where a woman and her donkey crush mounds of grain,
just as they have always done, further back than they remember.
Human and animal circle round and round,
as if on an eternal wheel, the wheel of life and death,
life and death, life and death . . .
There is something . . . familiar in all of this.
Somehow, within that perfect circle, I have the sudden sense
that all I really need to understand is just about to reveal itself.
Anticipation shimmers like a beckoning desert mirage.
After some time, I realize that it hasn’t, that it never will,
and so I eventually move on, the makeshift Berber camp
gradually receding in the distance like another memory,
another fleeting dream, already partially forgotten.
There is nothing to understand.