Two poems by Bonnie Bishop


The commandant’s house is overgrown with thistle
and ghosts of sailors are playing backgammon
under the eucalyptus trees beside the cathedral.

The stones of the fortress are dappled with lichen.
I am so taken, I could hurl my sandals off the parapet,
dust the marble stairways with a sprig of oleander,

sing like a cicada, retrieve a spiny urchin bare-handed.
A blistering wind spatters the waves with calligraphy,
a language I read with my skin as I swim.

Obedient, I offer to roll down the ramp of the citadel,
juggle oranges, smear my face with figs
and stare at the sun through a glass of honey.

I stretch out helplessly on a woven rug,
light a tallow candle, make an offering of dust
and blood, fall in love with my abductor.

Secrets of Aerial Diplomancy

My friend Phil posted a photo
he took in the Bird Market.
Several bearded men are staring
intently into a large wire cage
full of brown and white pigeons.
His comment: in Kabul dove charming
is a highly competitive sport.

Next day,
a teen-aged girl with explosives
in her backpack blew herself up
on a busy corner. Among the dead,
four street kids who worked there,
selling gum, bracelets, bottled water—
Nawab, 17, Mohammad, 13,
Khorahid 14, her sister, Parwama, 8.
They were also, improbably,
fledgling skateboarders, members
of Skateistan, an Australian charity
working with teens in Kabul.

Online, I learned that many Afghani
men keep dovecotes on their roofs.
In the late afternoon, they release
flights of birds which rise up
circling, into the skies. The object
of the sport is ‘to charm’ a dove
from another flock to join one’s own.

Not a word, though, about how
they achieve such a transfer of loyalty.

About the author

Bonnie Bishop has lived in Italy and Greece and hitchhiked from Athens to Copenhagen. She has crossed Canada by train, marvelled at the terra…

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Issue 22 · April 2015

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