Fes ~ The Theatre of 900 Streets

 
the faces, of the local audience,
light up with sunny smiles
as the Europeans
make their entrance
into the narrow streets.
the stage is set,
the show is on,
the magical charm is awake

the old Medina,
a  medieval world preserved,
says the guide.
nine hundred streets,
folded into a map
in the tourists pocket,
too detailed to ever unfold

it’s not a stage set
it’s real and alive
it breathes
brimming over with sounds
superstitious minds
and watchful eyes

a river runs underground
smothered by stone
wherever the river is close beneath
paths echo with sharper sounds
as leather slippered feet
run down the time smoothed steps.
it has always smelled the same
coriander, cedar, wood smoke,
an undercurrent of sewage
where the river rises for air.

outside the apothecary,
where snake skins
and dead hedgehogs
sit side by side
with potions and herbs and bones,
the donkey brays loud in the sun
with plastic crates of American Cola
lashed to it sack covered back.

the tourist thinks
this looks out of place
amongst the hand made baskets.
the scenery is despoiled,
but he takes a photograph anyway
as an old man turns his face away,
to protect his soul

behind the scenes
as the tourists move on
turning the corner out of sight
the faces fall back
into time worn care
and long acceptance
of very few dirham today

in these months of endless drought
the young men sit and dream
of satellite dishes and motorbikes
and passports out of this place
but they rest their hands on their hearts
and bow

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