Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Driving Across the Sahara

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jeroen Van Bergeijk's hair raising road trip across the Sahara (My Mercedes is Not For Sale) reminded me of the time back in 1971 when I traveled with my first husband through the Tunisian desert in an old but trusty VW bug with a hired driver. This was the real Sahara and the dunes were huge blank mountains that rose up all around us on both sides. The little car's engine was full of sand that rattled around and around inside. There were two little girls way up high on the crest of one of the dunes, watching for the first sign of us as we drove into their village. The second they spied the car, they raced each other down the steep side of the dune and came right up to the car window, holding up their dolls for us to see. The dolls were wrapped in layers of dark red cloth scraps. They each had big breasts, but no faces, just like the little girls' Bedouin mothers. The bodies of the dolls stood out against the Sahara, but their blank faces blended right in. I still have both those dolls. I keep them on one of the shelves in my library bookcase. Here's a poem I wrote about them called "Bedouin..."

She climbed the far side of the dune,
a dot
above a curving line. Then
sudden as a shout she came running, the
small breath rattling like seeds in her lungs.
She held a doll in the car window,
a clutch of shreds begged
from her mother: coconut-hard breasts,
a bit of tin, a red
bandana. But my mind stopped at the face -
a featureless white patch she held
against the eyeless
Sahara - I watched it fade
drop back
into Allah.

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