Moorish Conversation, 1832

Don’t look now (I said don’t look!)

I’ll tell you when you can look), just lie back

as if we were–well, as if

we were talking. Try to behave

as if we were by ourselves,

that’s why I brought you here in the first place.

The trouble with these rooftop

refuges–the one place in Tangier

you can see a touch of green,

something alive besides men and camels–

the trouble is, there’s always

a roof higher than the one you’re on,

a man looking down, watching …

Why bother getting really

comfortable if someone’s … Inanycase

I’d never dream of dragging

my best Bokhara out here–this old

Ardabil is lovely still,

they never lose their … The colors are fixed

by making the camels piss

all over them, then washing them out

in the canal: harsh treatment,

you’d think, but it works–look at me!

All the suppler for the way

I’ve been manhandled, you must admit …

Now look: you see what I mean?

That’s a man up there, standing

where he can … No, not Mustapha! Someone

he’s put there to spy on us.

On me! What does it matter to him

whether I’m up here with you

or one of the bath-women? He has to

know, that’s all, it affords him

some kind of gratification (more

than he gets from anything

he ever does with me!) … Try some of this,

she put the rose-petals in

just this morning, it tastes really fresh …

Oh! now I see: that … person

is nothing like Mustapha’s

usual parasites. One thing I do have

is a good memory for

men’s bodies. You must have noticed him:

a sharp-faced foreign devil

always lurking somewhere and staring so?

He takes it all in as if

life were the scene of the crime, even

the pair of us, harmless enough

on these irreproachable hassocks. Look!

I know he’s the one, crouching

with a notebook in his artful hands:

he’s put us in his picture!

As far as art goes–and art

such as his goes far enough for spying:

you don’t suppose Mustapha

sold rights to the roof?–we incarnate

your typical Tangerine

dalliance. Can’t you just hear the giddy

little screams once he returns

to his studio: “My dear, how

positively classical!” …

Never mind, he’s leaving now. Some more

fresh loukoum? The tea’s still warm,

and so am I. Do just as you like.