Mecca Bound and Other Poems

by Marian O’Brien Paul

Mecca Bound

“We raced before the monsoon winds,”
the old woman said, remembering how
the huge ship had hugged its human cargo.

She was silent a while, her eyelids lowered,
brow furrowed as she sorted the long-ago,
examining each scrap stored in her mind,
recalling the slap of heavy sails scooping
up the gale until they billowed as round as
the belly of her mother when full of child.
She could almost smell the smoky charcoal
smoldering in boxes filled with sand while
cook pots swung above, spicing salty air.
How wet that air when waves splashed
higher than the ship’s rail, drenching hair,
soaking clothing and remembered the time
the wind stopped a while, long enough
to wrap the bodies of the dead, two elders
who would enter heaven instead of Mecca.
She could still hear the sound of the cloth
that bound them, threads chafing the plank
before the bodies splashed into ocean water.

Once more she spoke: “Two old people died.
They were buried at sea,” was all she said.

Deep in her thoughts, she watched them sink
beneath the rolling waves, unsure how long
before the shrouds unwound, before the fish
could nibble sightless eyes; wondered what
things looked like below on the ocean floor –
perhaps a trail of bones for years laid down
to mark the way for pilgrims bound to Mecca.



the slow erasure

how the grass licks
at the stone’s edge
the green-slide across the surface
first one slender tendril
than another one
and another

another reaching toward the first
slim tips touching like tongues
forming nests that die
each season

pressing down on stone
imperceptible push

The time comes when no one
remembers the path
hands gone that laid it
owners moved on
whose feet once stepped here
bodies laid beneath other stones
that will also slowly sink

And what does it matter
to the grass
flourishing like us
for a season


Sweet Affair

Influenced by stanza XII of The Rubaiyat
by Omar Khayyam, written in 1120 CE/AD:

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

A glass of wine, a loaf of bread …
I lack but you with whom to share
this feast; conduct our sweet affair.

A book of verses – pages spread
on table – words of tender care,
a glass of wine, a loaf of bread …
I lack but you with whom to share.

A vase of roses, fiery red
their fragrant breath, a prayer …
angelic bliss if you were there.
A glass of wine, a loaf of bread …
I lack but you with whom to share
this feast; conduct our sweet affair.


Mad Geranium: a Terzanelle

My mad geranium plant expands: its leaves
as wide as dinner plates, its stalks as long
as striking snakes. It reaches toward the eaves.

Encroaching on my space, this jungle throng
has launched a single, crimson bloom
as wide as dinner plate, on stalk so long

it threatens total conquest of entire room.
The petals shaped like shotgun spatter
unleashed from single, crimson bloom,

the scores of velvet pellets aimed to scatter
blood-red drops on my computer keys.
These petals, shaped like shotgun spatter,

await an open window, robust breeze
to trigger scarlet fire, starting flood
of bloody drops upon computer keys.

Thus triggered, scarlet fire starts its flood.
As mad geranium plant expands, its leaves
conceal on longest stalk a newborn bud.
Strike that snake before it reaches eaves.’


Editor’s Note on Mecca Bound Others:

  • An excerpt from Mecca Bound appeared in Signatures, newsletter of the Department of English, University of Nebraska, Omaha. Spring 2006.
  • Sweet Affair appeared in Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog | Fall 2014.
  • Mad Geranium appeared in Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog | Fall 2014.
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