Poems by Michal Mahgerefteh

No Dinner for the Mourners

for the last two and a half hours
I hear father’s stomach rumbling

 

with a high-pitched voice he yells
toward the kitchen for attention
yallah women the guests are waiting

 
annoying penetrating voice cuts
through my bones, you forgot about
us the mourners, I vocally protest

 
father is not amused, jabbing his
elbow hard into my ribs, firmly
whispering Shhh! we must not eat

don’t stare, you’ll embarrass our guests
I glance over father’s shoulder, all
talking, drinking, eating, smoking

 
despite his firm warning, I slowly
lean across the table, like a thief grab
pita bread, pull pieces of chicken off

 
the breast nibbling-chewing wolfing
it down under father’s frowned gaze
don’t look at me like this, shame on your

 

guests, they are inconsiderate,
I say
suddenly, with a swift move, father
gets up from his favorite arm-chair

 

politely hushing the busy crowd
thanking all the guests for coming
walking toward the entrance door

 
sinking his teeth into his lower lip
touching the mezuzah for grant pardon
I thank all of you for coming from far, near

I hope you enjoyed a delicious dinner, please
forgive me when I say, "lila tov-good night"
on behalf of myself, my children, meals will

 
no longer be offered, only light refreshments
just before the morning and evening prayers
relieved  father releases a long sigh

 

Last Day in Marrakesh

noontime
     no authentic restaurant in this shuk
                      
just the egg-man   vegetable peddler
window-to-window conversations in broken Arabic

tired from exploring
      each maze   alley   mosque
               I pause   look back at the merchants
                     children playing checkers with glass chips

I enter the Oasis Café
             through a thick metal door
Hand of Fatimah knocker bolted on its post
                            into a small fig grove
scattered with tables and stools
                                  covered in red rags
cushions fluffed and wiped by a young boy
          in blue caftan and burgundy tarbush
Al-Salam-welcome, please sit, enjoy greatly!

a waiter in cream caftan
       offers ewer and basin to wash our hands
                     sets a round silver tray with fresh bread
soft butter-spread   small Cola bottle 
              silverware wrapped in floral fabric

we feast on goat meat in olive oil
        beef stewed in dried fruits  
               couscous with pine nuts


I look around   take a deep breath
      pull a notebook from a new red beaded handbag
                  inscribe the magical ingredients of this land

Michal Mahgerefteh is an award-winning poet and artist from Israel, living in Virginia since 1986. She is editor of Poetica Magazine, Contemporary Jewish Writing and Art. Michal’s second collection, Sipping Memories, A Poetic Journal to Morocco, will be available Fall 2011. To review Michal’s art and poetry, please visit her web site at www.michalmahgerefteh.com.


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