rows of green vine stitched into the ground
an unsteady wind hollows out bones
leaving them ringing a cold fear
the grey undercoat of a Peugeot sedan sparkles in blunt sunlight
as it rides a rail of intention, reaction
through a countryside freeze-dried by revolution
light, blocky, its capillaries stretch to wick up
moisture from the backs of beasts who pass through it
its verdancy sticking to hulking bodies like a fresh pollen
like marrow extracted through centrifugal force
and spread over the smooth elbow of a baguette
forward, another dawn in Tunisia
and as the frost passes
and greying blades of grass shed a thin coat of ice
and the red-brown of trees form a moving tapestry of color
my bus slices through a persian carpet countryside
a warm pocket of air in a cold, brisk Massachusetts morning
an apple cheeked face brushing away tears
as an icy wind cuts grooves into its hollow pores
I want to slowly drift into a Bossa Nova wonderland
Suspended by soft whispy clouds and propped up by the playful tune of fingers hitting black and white piano keys
A soothing male voice sings, exuding the energetic warmth of a grocer drifting into his seat
Thinking about the day with caipirinha in hand, occupying the space between work and the comfort of home
The smell of pastries and a light meal streaming steadily into my room
Surrounded by ivory-colored soft leather couches and the cool mist of a late spring evening floating onto my skin
– Listening to Vinicius’ Carta Ao Tom 74
As read at the fantastic East Meets West slam poetry open mic. Inspired by the journey of a Ugandan student studying Electrical Engineering at MIT.
Baby powder lines the inside of her translucent latex gloves
As she slips them over her bare hands
Dry white particles burrow deep into her skin like dust
Kicked up in a game of tag on a worn school playground
“Naeeta”! she shouts
Eyes popped open
A primed pair of lungs
The steel cabinet opposite her unable to absorb the brunt of her war cry
And as it sheds the energy from its shelves
Down its legs
And finally into the floor.
And so does she
She slinks back to her lab bench
Her lungs tight from the arid recycled air in the laser testing lab
Eyes strained like a waterlogged grapefruit bobbing brightly in a lazy creek
She hones in on amplitudes and diodes and ignores the sweet memory of a breeze
Brushing by her legs as she walked through her garden
And so she is
And will be for the time to come
In a different place
Where moisture comes not from dark, rich earth
But from the tip of a steel showerhead after a long day in the lab
Where her head cools not from pulses of fresh air from the Rwenzori mountains
But from a dorm-issued pillow that adorns her twin bed
And as she slips under her sheets and rests her tired eyes
And as her skin begins to soften and her feet find the edge of her bed
She hears the light springs in her mattress shift under her weight
And in her mind she finds
Cue Sweden. Small bricks lining a small footpath. Each brick, five centimeters wide, ten long, inserted adjacent to two others, its sides meeting the top of the first. Sign, marine blue, small boy holding father’s hand, positioned perpendicular to curb, itself at a 90 degree arc hanging over: street, manicured deep dark asphalt, striped with ribbons of dark, finely textured reflective white paint. Zoom out. Dark clouds, pregnant with rain, hanging ominously, (not forebodingly), over vibrant green pasture, spotted: heavy green of mossy undergrowth, lighter green of blades of grass. In grass (suspended), the following: white dandelions; violet ferns. Pan left. One horse. White calves, brown-black mane. Five body parts jutting out of ground: Two hind legs. Two front legs. Upper head + neck. Powerful hindquarters. Sounds: constant wind, sometimes heavy. Occasional chirp. Fresh rubber tires peeling off asphalt at high speed in distance, harmonizing with healthy hum of sports wagon, preferably Volvo. Shiny. Temperature: moderate/cold, with moderate swings appearing warm in relation. Atmosphere: raw (fresh grass). Fresh (raw milk). Zoom out. Fade to white.
My home base in Tunisia is Hammamet, a popular hub for European tourists seeking sun and sand. A common sight in Hammamet is what Tunisians call “business,” or young men, often from the countryside, who immigrate to coastal cities during the tourist season to find a foreign woman (and sometimes a foreign man) with whom to have a fling, and from whom to extract discretionary income.
You could call business prostitutes, but they are less deliberate with their aims. They straddle the line between valuing relationships as a means to an end, and as an exploration of their own sexuality. Business target foreign tourists because they are relatively affluent and can fund their discretionary expenses. Business also target tourists because through them they can experience sexual intimacy, an area that is strictly taboo, pre-marriage, in the rural Tunisian villages which business call home.
Business in Tunisia are on the rise. A growing number of European tourists travel to Tunisia explicitly in search of business for a sexual escapade. Rural Tunisians are also increasingly turning to business, as an economy with high unemployment, coupled with an increasingly aggressive consumer culture, drives a thirst for easy money. To break the trend, Tunisia recently deployed anti-business police (no joke), trained by Moroccan security forces, who apparently have a proven track record of combating this shadow economy.
I wanted to capture an image of a business who I spotted on the side of the road while driving home after a late night out.
The road slick from the searing press of tires
His white branded shoes reflect dimly on the asphalt on which he walks
Stop, cigarette, lighter, puff
He sees the stamp of his sole on a nearby spill of dirt, and smiles.
Click click, click click, click click
Behind him, near him, beyond him
Past his legs runs a feral dog
Its paws nervously disconnecting from the ground
As it roves through a tangle of power lines
Ahmed hates it
Its tense muscles, its plastic smile
A worn ribcage propelled forward in search something
Always in search of something
A vivid and stubborn mirage
A prize without a claimant
Reward eludes another day.
The road is hard. Ahmed’s bones are heavy.
A fresh escapade launched while tourists were collecting beachtowels
Has yet to conclude long after tourists have slipped under bedsheets.
Strands of hair hardened by gel, eyelids squatting on a rocky nest of sleep
The cologne in his stiff denim jacket loses ground
To the fine yellow soot that adorns it early morning.
There are few sights sadder than that of a business
Traipsing in to a cafe at the crack of dawn
Pupils entangled in wispy veins of blood, cheeks flush with the stench of stale hope
Ahmed’s story is worn on his face.
As it was in the washroom mirror of the cafe he visited yesterday morning
In front of which he finds himself again today.