blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1

POETRY

JOHN HOPPENTHALER

Mirage

                         —Ibn Batuta, a 14th century Moroccan,
                            became the Muslim worlds Marco Polo.

He crossed the Sahara expecting wealth
& robes of honor in Timbuktu. His gifts:
"three rounds of bread, a piece of beef
fried in gharti, a calabash with curdled milk."

Later, at a small feast of a root like taro,
all six of his party took ill. One died.
Batuta survived by forcing himself to vomit.

The world was larger than hed imagined,
& in weakness he thought his dead friend lucky.
On the trip home, Batuta found hed lost
rapport with the gait of camels but could now

derive a certain comfort by admiring endless
shapes of women lounging along the dunes.
The sand would never again be so forgiving.  


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