Ex-Embassy

By Carol Muske-Dukes b. 1945 Carol Muske-Dukes
Sometimes, at dawn, I think I hear   
                                              the high sobbing cry of the muezzin   
                                              hanging in the sky before it’s light   
                                              but then, I drop off to sleep again.

Behind us is the ex-embassy.
Its pool a blue mosaic through   
our hedge. The old man
in robe and wrapped head no longer

comes to mop the tiled edge—
his whole morning’s work   
fragmented by our wall of leaves.
No arm in a rolled sleeve,

bending, lifting. No flashing sections
of aluminum pole fit into a blue mesh scoop   
for whisking up floating petals.
No closeup: like a Cubist inset,

a turbanned man sipping tea,   
eyebrow and striped cup,   
slice of a woman’s profile   
black half-veil, two eyes

yoked in kohl moving in a hand-held   
mirror. No sun machine-gunning   
that round of glass. No part
of a lamb turning on part of a spit.

No peacock opening a bit   
of its promiscuous fan.
No cook hurrying the meat
with jagged curses. No meat.   
No god. No medallion front,   
officially defaced,
               the cornices deflagged   
as bare crude evidence
or our power to invade,
theirs to resist.

A For Sale sign likens it   
to a house on a cloud,   
a sunrise mosque. It has   
patterned tiles with sickles

of wheat or hashish. And wickets,   
a porte cochère engemmed
with rotating spots.
Maybe a neighbor, through

a closing door,
saw grown men cry out
in a frenzy, on a cold floor,
to a god no one comprehends.

No one comprehends how,
like the god of the broken, rusted lamp,   
once out, uncramped,
                              he’s not.

Not anything you could imagine   
not any servant
but the familiar reductive infinite—
lines of fuel drums, phone wires.
Rolled up in the bottom of a child’s red valise,

timing devices, threads of plastique . . .
left behind for the doubters,
the personal grit of some other deity,   
some intoxicating tattooed Allah

above the human ruins, head in hand.   
Not that. Not this. In the garden,
a broken rope of amber beads,
within each separate bead
the lights of patrols go by,
elongate—the next night and the next—

                           what I don’t know   
                           but learn to dread
                           turns over slowly in my bed.

Carol Muske-Dukes, “Ex-Embassy” from Applause. Copyright © 1989 by Carol Muske-Dukes. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.upress.pitt.edu. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: An Octave Above Thunder: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997)

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Poet Carol Muske-Dukes b. 1945

Subjects God & the Divine, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Islam, Religion

 Carol  Muske-Dukes

Biography

Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1945. She earned a BA from Creighton University and an MA at San Francisco State University. Her collections of poetry include Camouflage (1975), Applause (1989), An Octave Above Thunder: New and Selected Poems (1997), Sparrow (2003), which was a National Book Award finalist, and Twin Cities (2011). In addition to poetry, Muske-Dukes has published two collections of essays, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT God & the Divine, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Islam, Religion

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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