The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 12 no. 2


Penelope Shuttle 

The Repose of Baghdad


If we ever meet again,
and I don’t see how we can,
it won’t be on the Avenida del Poeta Rilke
in Ronda,
or by the banks of the green Guadalquivir
or in Granada
where the sunset goes on till midnight,
it won’t be in any of those houses by the sea
we called our own,
or in the Plaza Abul Beka
where the house martins feed their fledglings
in mud-nests under the sills,
or in the square
where the foal above the fountain
watches his moon shadow
on the wall of an inn old when Cervantes knew it,
and it won’t be up in the mountains
where in the hottest hour of the day
one hundred thin long-faced wild sheep
pour out of a cave, as if from the underworld.

If I ever see you again
it won’t be in the water mirrors
of the Alhambra
or in a building
that doesn’t know if it’s a cathedral
or a mosque
or by the fountains of the Garden of the Poets
in the Alcazar Real
or in the dark oratory
where they keep the writing bones
of St. Juan de la Cruz, gift-wrapped
in white ribbons.

And if I ever travel north,
you won’t be sitting beside me
on the bus to Silverknowles,
Clovenhorn or Rosewell.

If I ever sleep with you again
it won’t be in our own eager bed
or in that haunted hotel four-poster at Glastonbury,
on the drunken sleeper to Paddington
or on board the QE2 well below the waterline,

we won’t sleep together
in any friend’s spare bed
or on a neighbor’s floor
after some burst pipe emergency
or in that hilarious sleepless bed
of our first year together,

no, if we ever meet again
(and how can we?)
it will be in a summer time has lost track of,
in a back-street hostal
hidden in a labyrinth of tiny white lanes,

two steps past the old Synagogue
and the dens of the silversmiths,
within the white walls
and behind the black window grilles
of The Repose of Baghdad,
still bearing, see it?
its faded sign of star and crescent moon.