In Which I Consider Myself A Possible Woman of Algiers
Delacroix, like me, is charmed but deluded,
fascinated by their harem allure--
luscious flesh, bejeweled bodices,
vibrant costumes, figs.
Entering through swinging saloon doors,
I pose for them.
My red bloomers are brighter than theirs,
my cheeks burn violet energy.
They do not look my way,
I am disturbing the languor, familiar stupor.
Leaning on thick rugs, bolstered pillows,
these plump doyennes are adorned
with gold necklaces that sparkle against
nude chests, coyly covered by see-
through muslin blouses.
Turkish turned-up sandals,
thrown to the side, reveal
meaty feet, pudgy toes.
At times, our ladies shift positions
to ease a hip or elbow—discomfort
does not suit them.
Bored with the hookah,
they compare the men
they bedded last night:
a corpulent prince with lacquered hair;
sanctimonious merchant, smelling of musk;
odoriferous suitor, stale wine, spunk.
Spiritless, they wait uncounted hours,
tomorrow night will be a repeat.
Blue-black Algerian servant,
Samia, turns away from them,
she’s heard it all before.
The mirror on the tiled wall above them
tilts forward, she has not bothered
to straighten it.
She stops abruptly when she sees me.
Am I a new consort?
She determines not,
we are kindred spirits she and I,
different kinds of gems.
We recognize this luxuriant space as dark,
light shines through a depressed window
but to no end.
It doesn’t go anywhere,
only opens to the kitchen
where Samia is headed.
I believe it leads to Exodus,
we could run fast,
holding hands to escape this confinement.
As I attempt to find my way
across the circle of ladies,
a putrid smell rises--
moths in the drapes, cockroaches
in the corner, truth exhaling
from the rotten flesh of women
under those bloomers.
Dressed-up dolls dulled by men
who tell them they are well-taken care of,
they don’t realize their pearl anklets,
endless hashish, servants-in-waiting keep them
prisoners for life.
I pick my way through an airless world
across plush carpets to follow brave Samia.
At least, Delacroix had foresight to render her
with fleet feet and shoes on.
Lee Woodman’s essays and poems have been published in Tiferet Journal, Zócalo Public Square, Grey Sparrow Press, The Ekphrastic Review, vox poetica, The New Guard Review, and The Concord Monitor. A Pushcart nominee, Lee is also a longtime artist and media producer, whose radio and film awards include five CINEs, two NY International Film Blue Ribbons, and three Gracies from American Women in Radio and Television. She was awarded an Individual Poetry Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for FY 2019. Her poetry collection, Homescapes, will be published in May 2020 by Finishing Line Press. www.poetleewoodman.com
The Ekphrastic Review
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