On the roof of his house, Yusuf the potter
is kneading clay for the wheel.
From here you can see the Wall
and the arch to the mosque
thronged by an offering of sandals and heelless shoes:
little houses of many feet whose owners
have lifted away like light, a mass departure of souls.
The sandals have humbly become their own obeisance—
the mingling odours lift like praise.

In the street below, grit swirls in the air.
The almost silence overhead is dry and sweet
as cedar wood or paper prayers
shelved between stones,
those feathery tips like doves in a dovecote,
or the old ideas white-labelled hope
that wait between words in an ancient text.
A text of loss like the wall of the temple,
absence underlined, the desire of out to be in.

Downstairs his wife works spices into the dough.
Beyond, the Dome is abrim with murmuring,
unison honeys the noon.
Along the street: white robes, black coats,
hearts opening and closing like heavy books
that recite themselves with an easy humour.
Now laughter is taking the stairs in bounds
as the yeasty cinnamon scent ghosts up.
Each breath, Yusuf thinks, is like a step.

Jan Owen

Leave a Reply