Now I look at her as she lies dying by my side, her hair lying out like the rays of a grey sun on the pillow and I know that she must be thinking about her Alexander a lot who ever he is. The only time she mentioned him to me was when she gave me an old book, a poetry book by Shelly. It had the name ‘Alexander’ on the title page and I asked her who the previous owner was. She told me that he was a boy that she had met in Greece and it was ironic that Shelly’s was the book in which I should find his name as their fate was two and the same. This was all she said, I read the book many times, hoping to find out more within the words but I soon realised that it wasn’t the words that I should be looking at but the symbolism and I became lost in the meaning of the new romantic. Ever since the old lady has been prostrate I have read her a poem by Shelly, each day, in the morning. Which I think she enjoys, for he was, as she said, the only poet who could ever be ambitious enough write poetry for both Byron and the Gods.


I lift her, clean her, feed her. I administer a little more medication for the pain. And I see in her eyes all the poetry she has ever read slowly being released. I see Sapho’s last parade and I administer the spike into my vein and I too become part of the parade. I stand amongst the crowd, all-yelling and cheering, I stand with sore feet, with eyes wide open at the spectacle that is passing before me. First come the marchers who slowly walk with a steady gait in the sunshine one ahead of the other, this holy army that has never seen blood shed, who were the first born sons to be cast into the river and found by the lovers of Sapho, who were then raised to protect and serve the poet and her people.

Panthers, lions and wolves all come next, ridden by collared children with grins bared wide, waving as their steeds slink along the cobbled street. Then one hundred maidens, naked and pale, their bodies painted with terracotta mud while each one carries a great palm leaf in each hand and through the heads of the crowd I can just make out the most beautiful, shivering and whispering a prayer. A man next to me, tall, leans on an ivory cane and smokes an opium tipped cigarette imported from Egypt, he tells me that he is the English ambassador and believes that this is what the Britons need once a year to teach the English what life is for. We look on as the Maidens pass and see a dozen bejeweled Indian elephants borrowed from Hannibal who has been spotted surveying the spectacle from steps of the great library. There is an acrobat on the back of each Elephant tumbling and turning while throwing giant flowers down to the crowd. This is the last march of Sapho, this is the poet’s last parade.

All of the people whom line the street are drunk on wine and sun and the buildings are shining golden, as the air smells of summer and hyacinth, we hear the thundering beat of many drummers and we finally see them as they come with giant sweating arms beating the pulse of the day that grabs the crowd and incites them into a dancing frenzy, they start throwing their tunics to the ground as the drumming builds to a climax and the many arms become a blur, then as quickly as the frenzy was built it stops and silence falls like a blanket of darkness, from which a girl, dressed simply with a flower in her hair walks and she sings a song with a voice that is a gift from the gods. The drumming slowly builds once more and everyone takes up the song. This ode that has become the anthem for Sapho’s last parade.

As the drumming slowly starts once more, painted men run along the crowd throwing jewels, tapestries and ancient papyrus scrolls on which are written secrets of the ancients.

Two men hold a ladder that stand high into the air, atop which sits the smallest of boys and he smiles as he releases leaves of paper that the wind catches and takes slowly down to the crowd. I catch one and find that written upon it is a poem written by Sapho herself.

The hours pass and naked men and women pass through the crowd giving food and wine to any in need, there are many things to see copulations, killings, laughter, sadness. The portly man turns and embraces me as this true celebration of humanity has shown him something it has shown us all something.

And the parade finishes, the street empties, we all crane our necks and wait.

Then she comes. She rides a stag with antlers painted gold, she sits naked but for a skirt of chain mail and many jewels and holds her head high with the dignity of a goddess. As she passes she looks my way and I see sadness, a tired weariness, for she knows this is last march. The poet’s last parade.


There is a loud bang. I walk to the window and see the garbage men have knocked over a bin. They are arguing about who is going to clean up the contents.

I close the window, and face the old woman, she is still lost in the crowd of the poet’s last parade.

I walk over to the gramophone and put on Stravinsky’s Firebird, it has always helped the old lady relax, especially whilst being medicated. I sit back down and contemplate what will be done when she finally passes. She has left instructions regarding her funeral in the top drawer by her bed and told me that I am not to read them until after.

‘After’- Possibly the most misunderstood word in the human language.

I look at her. She could be dead right now. Lost in a medicated stupor. I think about her, how we met, what we have become to each other for the last fifteen years. She was old when we met, yet she was not doing what one associates old women with.

I met her at night, with a fire burning beneath my feet and my life needing both validation and stability. A fire was burning above her head and her life had nothing to be compared to, it had no parallel, no black to her gold. So she created the black, she pulled it in around her and created a whole new life for herself and it was by mistake or chance or coincidence that I was pulled in next to her to become what she would call her apprentice to life, and I learnt quick that I would have to forget everything about the city which I once loved, a city that has since been given to the Germans in the divisions of Europe since the last war. She made me forget my parents, and taught me that although the tree might be rotten it doesn’t mean that the flower has to smell bad. I however, did decide, when I was old enough, to leave her and I left to find my mother, something that she advised strongly against. It broke her heart. I set out from this city that is clean and open to the twentieth century and stepped back looking for the city of the old Roman lighthouse. I never made it. It seems my father who I only knew briefly, yet well enough, before he died had passed on his love for women and gambling both of which I found very much to my liking and I ended up on an island of the east coast of Africa. I have no recollection how.


My memory of this time is faded and worn with only the crickets chirping in my mind to keep the rhythm of remembrance there. There I found a city that was the city of my youth, or at least it seemed it was. I felt as if it was the last place on planet Earth on which you could stand on the soil and witness the last of an ancient magic, not unlike the city of my youth was like. It felt as if someone had pulled down my parent’s city brick by brick and built it upon the white beaches of this island. Here where you could smell the cloves within your lover’s hair and taste the cinnamon on their skin.

It was here I found Love, I found wine and I found the Swahili.

The Swahili include the tribes of Africans that live up and down the central Eastern African Coast. There are too many to name, they all vie for and believe in their supremacy above other tribes and each have their own beliefs and thoughts. The one thing that unites them is that when they smile it is as a new music has been written for the world to see- not just to hear. One has to learn to trust their smiles, not all of their motives can be trusted but if you grow untrusting of their smiles one has then lost all belief in the magic of the world.


I found myself on this island by the ocean, spending my nights by the half crazy waves that would darkly crash into bright canvases of foam. My room was in a whitewashed building out of the way from everything but close enough to witness any events that might ignite my curiosity away from the horizon and lead me into the soup of ethnicities.

The room was high enough for the smell of the island to drift in through my shutters, whether opened or closed, this smell was like no other and it was a mix of spices and sea spray. Totally pure and one whose equal cannot be met, on days of total sunshine it seemed the smell was magnified and baked into the very ground, into your clothes, and into your skin.

I decorated my room with the idols that one could find in the markets and wore nothing but the colourful kikoi, a lightly woven and brightly patterned piece of cloth that the men would wear in place of pants. I found a store where I could purchase cheap quarts of wine that, like the island, were heavily spiced, and I fell into a life of tranquil, heavenly, sloth.



~ by yesknow on April 12, 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: