Sipping Moroccan Memories: Poems and iPad Art
By Michal Mahgerefteh

Ocean Currents; iPad art by Michal Mahgerefteh 

The Shuk in Rabat

I stroll down narrow alleys
mud-covered pebble stones
musty odor of carpets and urine
persists over the scent of lemon
stored in wooden boxes pushed
by ragged men and worn-out donkeys
I quickly flatten against the wall to their
agitated “Balak balak—make room”
faces tightly wrapped in colorful silk scarves
pacing rows of embroidered caftans
handmade crocheted tablecloths loosely displayed
on plastic ropes and wires between stores
the lushness of Moroccan and French
accent resonates a language grandmother
Zohar sang as she prepared trays filled with
caramelized peanuts and stuffed dates
ahh the luxury of memory delights
my taste buds recall the sipping of tea
with fresh Sheba crunch of raw pistachios
and salted sunflower seeds

The Bazaar at Walled Mellah

in a heavy coat I stand against
the chill of mid-March black umbrella
shielding from persistent drizzle
I make my way down a path
of weathered white walls
men in front of charcoal fires
sell roasted chestnuts for pennies
entering the busy bazaar I recall
this place its history my people
lived in Walled Mellah for over
two-thousand years spoke Aramaic
bolted David's Shield on every entrance door
my pulsing heart feels the stones
fermenting in silence tailors carpenters
leather makers clung as a community
stumbled over fragmented scrolls
haunted by the Evil Eye their tantalizing
scents cut through the damp air in a rhythmic cry
tonight I will eat a solitary meal couscous
with bare hands as I did as a child gulp
tea with honey swallow embers of memory

Reminiscing Grandfather Shlomo

a vegetable merchant rests by the side
of the road short sturdy chewing tobacco
face wrapped in a veil of blowing dust
agitated from long—hard days of work
offers hamsa charms and fabric bracelets
strung on leather-like strips colorful caftans
swinging on rusted wires ceramic bridal dispensers
filled with rosewater surely lost the essence
of fragrance from the intense desert heat
my daughter might like the traditional bottles
for her engagement ceremony years from now
but alas for traditions nobody observes them anymore
chuckling as he hands pomegranate Sharbat
he looks like saba—grandfather Shlomo
a produce merchant I hardly knew
only his blue beret and handy wooden stick
to scare fruit thieves remain in memory
softly spoken often briefly or hardly ever
spends his days in solitary feeding chickens under
the sweet lemon tree collects ripe blackberries
scattered on the veranda and weathered wall
rarely pauses to Shalom saba but here in the land
of ancestors he waves in scent and sound

The Henna Artist

in the center market square of Djema el Fna
among fabric merchants a single woman
on a low stool stone mortar in hand
pounds chopped henna into fine green powder
she looks at our group with a bubbling smile
“Beautiful lady lucky tattoos dollars please”
I follow her hand sit on rolled rugs
and lean against large baskets of dry couscous
she stuffs a wad of tobacco into her mouth
takes a deep breath in a flowing rhythm
draws Berber designs framing nails and fingers
Fish for prosperity—lion’s paw for strength”
as the cool paste touches my skin
I travel back to my engagement night
when the women escorted the new bride
into the mikveh ululating as her palms
and feet were covered in a thick paste of red henna
on this day as blessed sunshine strikes blue
walls and yellow Jasmine I sip a gentle past
in the flavor of rose-blossom waters
“Shokran—thank you” she says in flushing cheeks
“Zwin—beautiful—so beautiful”

Harvest: IPad art by Michal Mahgerefteh

Afternoon Reflection

slow silences fall onto the dark-grey evening
split foliage in the courtyard parched
from the long summer sun tingles with the scent
of sand breezes from the Sahara and Atlantic
orange trees in bloom proud in a plot of earth
encircled by yellow tiles foreign guests resting
on banquettes smoking narghile sipping
Moroccan mojitos and hot cardamom tea
inhaling the soothing fragrance of peppermint
evening prayer of Muezzins resounds
the praises of Psalmist in Judeo-Berber song
the yolk of my tribe stringing memory

Michal Mahgerefteh is a poet and artist of Moroccan origin living in Virginia.

Copyright by Sephardic Horizons, all rights reserved. ISSN Number 2158-1800