Meeting Places: Part VII


hits my tongue after a twelve hour burn
along the contours of a bad map
through a hundred nameless towns
in a hotel that glows like redneck Christmas,
where gift-wrapped women disrobe - a little.

We have an Indian bar and an Arab bar,
greets the sleepy Indian manager.
He could be behind a desk in Muscat,
Salalah, or Sur; they all blend together.
In the Indian bar women totter on stage, singing

in registers that could cripple a dog.
In the other, Arab girls, Syrian or Jordanian,
but never Omani, dip their immense frames
and spin in circles, exotic little teapots.
Not quite dancing, not quite bargaining.

An elder local joins me, his long beard
more peanut shells than beard. You England?
He slurs, and our glasses clink.
Oman-America same-same.
At the table he loads a one-hitter
with dense tobacco and takes the hit,
placing the pipe between the gap
where his teeth should meet.

I escape to the comedy of the bathroom.
Drunken Omanis pull up their robes,
blinded, falling over, they use the urinals.
There are no lines for the women’s room.
Oman-America same-same.

When the girls again pivot around the stage
peanut beard scrawls on a scrap of paper,
crumples it up and throws it at them.
A minute later the air is ticker tape
raining some ritual of affection.

In a Nizwa bar I inquire, to a tipsy cop.
Yes, very expensive, you see? Pointing
at a plus sized dancing Syrian.
My friend, I get you good price tonight.
There are only two kinds of women in Oman,
the untouchable and the buyable.

A month later I was his dealer,
an accessory to blasphemy.
My booze sustained half of Sohar’s police.
Muslims could drink, but not buy
from the well stocked liquor stores.

I never charged them anything, in alien lands
the only real currency is favors.

Previous | Next