‘The “H” that spells Kuala Lumpur.’
We feared we’d be discovered, dreaded
we’d meet some relative of Nur’s,
or someone dressed in Russian furs
whose friend or father we’d beheaded
on giddy raids of Ashkabat.
We feared assassins, hit men, plots
to kidnap Noorya, hired thugs,
our former Majesty’s fanatics.
But mother served her daily drugs
and told her faithful tea-time addict:
“You married to prevent divorce
from this, your fix, your tonic source
of love and life, your sin and soul-friend.
When do we tour Romania and Poland?”
Arcady — you may be wondering what
my Noorya felt about it all.
How could I know? A frail blue doll
beside a northern window shut
against the cold, she numbly stared
out at the “greyzny,” grainy-aired,
despairing city. She weirdly hummed,
and only moved when she was lifted.
Some yoghurt-rice, morosely gummed,
was all she’d eat. Often she drifted
to sleep, and yet her eyes didn’t close,
as if, through puzzling, dreamy snows,
her dark north-facing gaze was tuned
to where dead Nur was now marooned.
One day – what did she see! — while scanning
that window’s view myself, I tried
to find, amidst that dried-out, tide-
receded reef of buildings spanning
Moscow’s ashen plain, some spot
on which my darling’s eyes had caught.
And this is when I noticed, there
along the notched horizon’s line,
what seemed a fallen eyelash hair
against the cloudy lens. So fine
and far away it was, it meant
so little — until one day we went
up north. I watched, in Noorya’s eyes,
the Ostankino Tower rise.
The first we’d ever seen – a high-rise!
Then two weeks later, in Poland, a latticed,
steely, guy-wired, apparatus
would lift my Noorya’s vision sky-wise
even higher. Our minstrel band
was being bussed through desolate land
that led to Warsaw’s radio station –
a tower that broadcast Noorya’s lyrics
to every household in the nation.
The papers printed panegyrics
extolling her unearthly sound.
Requests came in from all around
the world to hear the “Afghan Muse.”
And Asarov drank down his booze.
And died soon after, the dupe.
our group began a global tour,
from Paris to Kuala Lumpur.
Taiwan, Berlin, New York, Toronto.
We’d fly, we’d land, we’d play. Repeat.
The Russians studied each receipt
of every foreign item bought;
then stole the goods and took our money.
The cold damp seats of Aeroflot
(with air-vent nostrils always runny)
deprived us of our sleep; and rare
was our free time to breathe free air –
but here’s the thing: Each trip we made,
each foreign city where we stayed
appeared selected by that weird
unearthly voice, that Sibyl’s sense,
a demon-fed clairaudience
to which my Noorya’s mind adhered.
I’d watch her eyes. I’d watch them search
each city’s sky – and watch them perch
at once upon some thrusting spire
that like a timid hunter’s rifle
would track the clouds but hold its fire.
It was, in Paris, the tip of Eiffel’s
enormous parasol, fast-banded
with iron – and never quite expanded –
which served as yet another hook
for Noorya’s eyes to hang their look.
‘That mid-town peak where King Kong sat / and defended from the sky’s munitions / his lovely screaming hand-held girl.’
Berlin! That mast of tall transmissions.
Those twins that loomed in lower Manhattan.
That mid-town peak where King Kong sat and
defended from the sky’s munitions
his lovely screaming hand-held girl.
Shanghai! The Oriental Pearl,
a needled orb suspended high
above the towers of Pudong.
That beautiful inverted “Y”
that penetrates Taiwan’s azure.
Undotted “I”s across Hong Kong.
The “H” that spells Kuala Lumpur.
And not just towers of modern stock — no,
but I remember in Morocco,
her eyes in Casablanca set
upon a mighty minaret.
And obelisks and campanili,
steeples, shafts, pagodas, many
aerials and tall antennae
projecting upward, thrusting freely,
unabashed into the raven
dark or shaggy white or shaven
vast dilating sky above.
Arcady! How frightening and how odd,
the way whatever spark my love’s
dull stare retained was drawn to pinnacles;
and every place — a lightning rod!
Perhaps I was too rash, too cynical.
Perhaps her skyward eyes were chaste;
their tower-conducted gaze not traced
to long dead Nur, or her abduction,
but just to – I don’t know — construction.
To all the wonders of tall buildings.
To all the glories of the West.
We were, our band of players, impressed
with all that grass and glass and gilding;
the toilets fresh as spring. We smelt
the pheromones of Freedom, felt
its hardened harlot-hands inspect
our tender modesty. We tried
to find the courage to defect.
But mother saw things otherwise.
She shunned the shopping plazas, shied
away from lawns; showed no surprise
at blow-dryers; found in every place
we went some members of our race
already there, and thus determined
that all the world was Turkmen-vermined.’
More Tuesday Poems at Tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.