“Where Is Damascus?” from 2012, a long time ago for tourists watching some locals leaving

Where Is Damascus? from 2012, a long time ago

(Old poem from July 23, 2012)

Damascenes can welcome
tourists of many shades,
many kinds of refuge for
adventurous palettes, a

taste of freedom perhaps for
foreign and countryside tourists

From many places
people seek refuge
or adventure in Damascus

Shelling in Idlib, Homs and Hama.
None of our business. People
seek refuge in Damascus. OK.

Shabiha intimidate those
neighborhoods now nearby.

Soon violence may come to
our narrow alleys
mingle among tourists
wrapping up a night wandering

Seems a friend is accused –
disappeared by glass fronts and by street stalls
where walk-by tourists are stalled along narrow ways
on Midan street, and eye the high towers of
baklawa and night-market syrups on
pistachio-and-walnut secrets wrapped in
phyllo dough wrappings and raptured night

Are we to be tourists too
who will mingle with darker nights,
pack up and wrap up the day
flee too when the last
of the grilled meat
oozes lamb scented oil

seeming no time for
sfouf cake, sesame cookies
or crumbly mamoul

going now without tea perhaps
making our way quietly
off the record, secular
and I’d deny I’d ever said that
religion is superstition. Say that

family were kind merchants
who made money honestly
obeyed the state of affairs

What are we to do
with the art works in our house?

Saying that perhaps
Damascenes never mention
chic addresses again
where honey-pistachio pastries
seemed to entice
a palette of fantasy tolerance
bought with elite education, where
no one could know

we were pet dogs
and happy to eat until
the countryside wolf
became a tourist

— Douglas Gilbert


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