A moment in Tripoli

In 1999, I travelled to Tripoli to try and collect on a debt that was owed to my late father and overdue by a decade. I wrote this poem there even as I was writing off the debt.

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In the evening
the dust from all the deserts that encircle Tripoli climb into the air until the whole world turns pale and yellow

and like an ageing fragility
return into patterns on every car as they heave and squeeze into shrinking corners and then grow still

For a moment
heads sink back in distraction
I find mine in the warm old seat cover scents as my car horn exhales a muted curse

I look outside
into my own private peculiar world
a dry and dull fruit market where
the woman with the long black face and sad eyes encased by a brittle silk shawl tugs at my lonely fearful moment

The road back home is lost
it has been wrenched out of my heart by this alien place like it wrenched away my fathers many years before
she is all I have left to hold onto – the woman with the long black face – and this market square

How many years will it take with them to erase who we are and embrace who we will become in this new world?
family, friends and familiarity dissolve
only the woman with the long black face – and her poverty…..

Let us begin again from here in silence
for without my memories
I may have nothing to say
and without my father’s unfinished ambitions
I could wake up and help you lift your basket of fading fruit upto this roadside kerb

and yet …

I can still feel the weight of the few dinars and fruits we have left each evening
will they be enough to warm our bellies and keep us quiet?

In new worlds I find new fears quite easily
to help me start my life again
the real questions are the ones I can’t ask yet
or perhaps the ones I may never ask

For the stories of the world
remain the same
its only the way they are told
that changes

Fears crawl like an unfamiliar voice in my head
when I feel my father’s absence,
And sing like the adventures I was born to live through
when I feel his immortal love.

The road empties
cars escape in different directions
Abdallah barks on in words I don’t understand
laughs like a king in a way I don’t understand
and moves into second gear to help me find a hotel

I glance into the side-view mirror
an old father’s eyes look back at me
sandstorms, hope and foreign lands
the many roads that take me back
to commiserate
with my gentle father

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15 Replies to “A moment in Tripoli”

  1. Poignant is the word! …. Your writing often reads like a half felt and almost gone feeling/thought 🙂 It has a dream like quality……something slipping away almost before it can be understood. Or maybe it’s too abstract to be understood by earthly beings 🙂

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  2. i joined you … in tripoli … felt the desolation looking into that woman’s eyes, turn into an acceptance of our universality … beautiful yet again … and something i would want to read again and again!

    🙂

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  3. Anand I seem to be repeating myself.
    I just don’t know how to express myself after reading your blogs or short stories.
    They are so tangible and poignant.
    They. transport you to scene that you have written about, ,and I feel I am personally experiencing all the emotions that you maybe.
    One can feel the Hopelessness of the woman .
    Also one can feel the idealism which is in stark contrast to our present materialistic world and it’s superficial demands.
    The futility of life that we are all chasing.
    The stark realization that we come with nothing and we go with nothing.
    You have not mentioned this but these are the feelings that were evoked , when I was reading your fantastic story.
    The emotions, the feelings are so real that you actually take the reader with you on your journey
    All the best.
    Keep writing your enchanting stories.
    You are truly talented and blessed
    God bless you
    Mina

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  4. Your feelings for your dad so well expressed poetically transcending time and all that happened between then and now.
    God’s Blessings be always with you.
    Sunder

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  5. Anand ,collection of a debt owed to Your father is a debt you owed him ,though he would have let go ;.expressed so steadfastly ,poignant and simplistic the poem is epical .God bless You .
    Raghavan Sarathy

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  6. Anand, I could fully empathize with you when I read the heart-touching poem. I read it several times. Old memories it is said die hard. The happy moments fly off. But the sad moments keep haunting again and again. The twin feelings of angst and pathos persist in tugging at you. Such extraordinary poetic expressions lighten the overbearing burden and act as a balm to sooth the tensed nerves. Your poem took me through some of my sad moments of the past and gave me some relief. Many thanks for sharing your feelings without any inhibitions.
    Gopal Uncle

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  7. Your poems embody India’s dharma tradition. Techniques and experiences which help discover higher states of consciousness and help attain the ultimate happiness. Ergo .. bad debts didn’t have the power to make you unhappy …while your father’s immortal love made your heart sing in Tripoli

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