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The Sign of the Open Palm
by C.R. Patton Jr.
From noon till cool dark comes
hot daylight rakes the street;
broken cobble lies undisturbed
while the shade is in retreat.
Against a baked mud wall,
sweating in the afternoon balm,
squats a shadow maybe once a man;
holding out his upturned palm.
For decades or centuries,
longer, scraggle-bearded elders say;
the rhythm of the hot and dry
have preserved Al-Jabbat from decay.
Pebbles atop the sand expand
thrusting out shadows long and dark;
nearby but seldom seen
feral dogs begin their twilight bark.
Thru the blur of a smoke filled room
fall glowing ashes from a hand so calm;
outside in the dust blown street
hangs the Sign of the Open Palm.
A pair of live flame lamps
light the doorway with their duet;
a shadow looming ten feet tall
shrouds a slightly smaller silhouette.
Enter a crooked tooth smile
too yellow to reflect the flickers,
Eyeing as he walks each patron
his knees move among the wickers.
Propped by a driftwood staff;
sitting, sipping sweet hot tea
wizened with rare red hair
stands a soul of serenity.
Water warped wood in a desert land
just one of his dervish tokens;
his greeting is grimly spoken.
"And also upon you" goes unsaid
by the approaching ogre now near;
a loathing felt by all precedes,
a hatred with a hint of fear.
The dullard's knife shines forth
with a handle of rhinoceros horn,
He has come to avenge the deaths
of a wife and a child unborn.
The smaller flame-haired man
had been paid for a mystical service.
The arid medicine had failed
leaving the widower a single-minded purpose.
But the confidence shining from the mage
illicits a meandering doubt;
this weaponed attack on authority
parches his throat like a two year drought.
South from below the Sudan,
north through Saudia to Turkey,
charisma heightens a man
whether Sir Lawrence or The Mahdi.
From Morocco to Bangladesh
people of Islam bow habitually,
Mekkah is the center of all
five times each day faithfully.
A simple frontal attack
stands not a snowflake's chance;
courage gone but resolve in place,
he follows behind the knife's advance.
A flash, a flick, and a two piece staff
end it all before it can really begin;
the half in hand is dagger tipped;
burnt powder falls on a grizzly grin.
A second wife and first child
will be forced to beg for alms;
their connection to community
lies on the floor with splayed out palms.
From Ayatollahs to Mutawah,
there's a religious paternity;
like the blazing sun overhead
a desert fixture from eternity.
The west wind blows on dry,
not a single palm tree to sway;
Al-Jabbat continues the same
withering without wasting away.
The camels after the sun has gone down,
lie in wait for a brand new dawn.
Darkness never quite settles
at the Sign of the Open Palm.
~~ ~~ ~~
"Assalamu-alaikum" means, loosely, "Peace be upon you."
"Wa'alaikum assalam" is the reply (loosely: "And also upon you")
"Mutawah" - Saudi Arabian religious police
Insha-Allah "God-willing, I shall"