Sand

20 September 2016

The sand hangs in a suspended glaze in Abu Dhabi:
a silicon horizon, washing down the sky in glaring white.
Moted in it, the falcons spiral on dune thermals
and salt thermals, and circling higher, the 737s scrape north.
The finches pour from their cracked-render nests and
secret daubs and dodge amongst the Germans and the British
scorching on their towels by the pool. Australians here too:
embarrassingly drunk, loudly base and puking. I realise
you should be here too. In a beer clarity which
dials down the itinerant Jazz Club musicians, the dancing
Jordanian sisters, the airline hostesses on their furloughs,
swimming in screamingly funny cocktails: Bullfrogs and Whisky Sours.
The profundity and definiteness of a Heineken: you should be here.
We could watch the golf carts chase each other on the fairways.
We could wonder about the beauty slotted through a niqab
or briefly hennaed and elegantly painted past the hem of a hijab.
You’d hate this lifestyle, and Dubai’s crass immensities
of designer malls and indoor ski-slopes would bore you but
the sand hangs here, love, or sweeps listlessly across the highways.
The mosques are spot-lit green at night, like spaceships, and the oasis
expands under the benign vision of Our Father Zayed whose
12 metre high poster still stands outside the Hilton, watching
the palm-lined roads slicing up the desert, and clearing out the
camels to traditional homesteads. and the deer to the soccer courts
of the defence bases, stocked by a year’s compulsory service, and oil.
Poor apparitions and tasteless copies: these waitresses and cleaners,
eastern European call-girls on the arms of sweaty businessmen.
I’m sending the real you short-emails while you sleep, so you can send me
answers while I am. There’ll be a fog tomorrow and crashes in the Corniche.
By lunchtime, hordes of Pakistanis will rappel precariously
over the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab, and bless the sand away
with squeegees and squeeze out this country’s water on the useless
grass at the airport; armies of Indian workers will collapse
on the edge of Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed road, in their own
prostrate prayer to exhaustion. You should see this, my love:
the sand blankets them and the Mullahs call them tottering to prayer.
I will bring you home a pinch of salt in my gut, pickling with
the Meze, the Baklava and the Loukoumades, curdling with
the camel milk. I will bring you home a stolen peck of
sand in my pocket, or in my shoe, since you could not be here.
Sand, in the one last blazing glimpse of the marbled Sheik Zayed Mosque.
You should be here: where sand has blown over a thousand years,
forming glass and diamonds, pearls and marble and weeping grit.

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