In High Maroc
I sat on a roof in the mountains of Morocco
Drinking mint tea, speaking bad French.
I read some novel of dubious note
When a goatherd approached my bench.
He sold me a story, the best of its kind
That involved a trek in the sun.
These mountains, he said, belonged to his tribe,
And our venture thenceforth was begun.
We met the next morning outside the hotel
As a hawker roasted some meat:
Mixed kidney, I think, in an old dustbin lid
On charcoal at the side of the street.
So, pitta in hand, I boarded the car,
That 'Grand Taxi' of which I had heard.
We shot to the hills at unthinkable pace,
Just me and the wise old goatherd.
A village was met before very long
Where the houses were raised from the mud.
'Outfante da!' did the goatherd exclaim,
The goats they just chewed at their cud.
His gnarly old digit was aimed at a well,
And the well it was where we began.
We climbed on two ropes to the pit down below
Till our feet were resting on sand.
An old iron bulkhead was crafted therein,
To keep the fast flow at bay.
He rapped it for luck with the heel of his cane,
Then the two of us went on our way.
We walked for three hours down a branching ginnel,
Pausing only for beer.
The way it was lit by an ormolu lamp.
I swallowed back any fear.
How had I let myself quite this far come?
Where were we going to then?
My French was not up to his chirpy parlance,
Yet now I was within his den.
At long last the passage became a cavern,
Bleak, dank and bitten with dark.
He whistled and goats bleated off to the left
Where they sat in an unlikely barque.
The vessel they occupied floated above
A dark rivulet gushing with foam.
We sat, just the four of us, on its damp floor
And proceeded to sail in this gloam
We travelled as such for a night and a day
(My trembling had stopped past some time)
Then all at once without much forewarn,
A Sunshaft! A Hippo! A vine!
In not quite two days, in peculiar freight,
We'd sailed beyond the Sahel
To Mopti, a town not quite like those I'd known;
This goatherd had done rather well!
I thanked him, and boarded a bus to the square
Where I was told there was stew to be had.
And there after feasting, befriended a maid,
Who let rooms that were owned by her dad.
We made out that evening on a basket of yam;
We made love as the sun went to set.
An adventure begins with a nod to our fates
Thus the sword of our destiny's whet.