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Friday, April 29, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day #29: Casablanca

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Poet and artist Joe Brainard is probably best remembers for his book-length poem/memoir, I Remember. The book consists of a series of statements, all beginning with the phrase “I remember.” Here are a few examples:

I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.

I remember how much I cried seeing South Pacific (the movie) three times.

I remember how good a glass of water can taste after a dish of ice cream.

The specific, sometimes mundane and sometimes zany details of the things Brainard remembers builds up over the course of the book, until you have a good deal of empathy and sympathy for this somewhat odd person that you really feel you’ve gotten to know.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem based on things you remember. Try to focus on specific details, and don’t worry about whether the memories are of important events, or are connected to each other. You could start by adopting Brainard’s uniform habit of starting every line with “I remember,” and then you could either cut out all the instances of “I remember,” or leave them all in, or leave just a few in. At any rate, hopefully you’ll wind up with a poem that is heavy on concrete detail, and which uses that detail as its connective tissue. Happy writing!

I remember the night very well: the sun always sets around five in November,
a few weeks before Thanksgiving—a chill lingers in the air with the raindrops.
I remember waiting for a classmate from my Arabic class and his wife to pick me up
for our class dinner in Warrington. We’d be going to Casablanca, a Moroccan restaurant,
to watch belly dancers gyrating their hips and the breathless watch the infamous Omar,
the best male belly dancer in the Philadelphia area. Of course we’d have a five course meal too.
I remember sitting inside Sykes because it started to rain and I didn’t want to wait in the rain,
I was working on my upcoming book, writing about my trip to the Statue of Liberty,
lost in the maze of people, feeling claustrophobic as I tried to climb Lady Liberty.

I remember the phone being on vibrate to break concentration on writing for the call;
rain drops sounded like drum beats on the windows, rainy days always had a soporific affect ,
scribbling between sleepiness and mania, the wait for the call isn’t long and I run between drops;
I remember running into a friend and it’s just a quick “hi” before I pile into the car.
The warmth from the heater, the classmate and his wife’s gracious hello is a welcoming feeling
to warm up from a cold day and relax before the excitement of the night.
I remember the ride from West Chester to Warrington to be extremely long,
what was supposed to be a forty minute drive turned into an hour from rush hour
and I remember some of the drivers driving stupidly in the pouring rain;
but maybe because the Turn Pike attracts that. Maybe the Turn Pike was the cause
of the traffic, the people zipping in and out, looking for the tollbooth without lines.
I remember the radio was tuned to a rock station to counteract the effects of rain,
while chatting about the reasons why we were learning Arabic, how we loved the class
(his wife was planning on taking the classes next year, her name was the Arabic word for heaven;
I remember her mentioning how she always wanted to learn. We had a lot in common!)
Despite the gridlock, the guitar riffs in the background accentuating our conversation
didn’t make the traffic so brutal. I remember once we paid the toll, it was smooth and quick
and it only took fifteen minutes to get to Casablanca; the rain also calmed down.
I remember walking through the doors and we were greeted by an attractive hostess
that led us through a beaded curtain where we were warmly received by our class;
I remember my professor introducing us to her husband and a few of her children—
what lovely people and they were so much fun; we all learned to belly dance that night.
I remember sitting on the comfortable pillows, in Earthly hues of brown and tan,
what sounds like Omar Souleyman plays in the distance, the Oud tune is the calm before the storm.

I remember ordering the Moroccan rabbit along with Baba Ghanouj, hummus, and rice,
it was an eight course meal so there was a lot of other foods in the mix, I would be really full.
I remember the lively conversations around me, but I instead take in the sights around me,
feel the vibrations of the music and study the Arabic on the menu, the words coming alive
as I remember that is how Arabic script always looked to me: the beauty of the fonts,
traveling through deserts, ancient and modern civilizations alike, the warmth in community.
I remember that feeling as I sit here with my class, the laughing as we anticipate Omar,
and then with a loud “HABIBI,” Amr Diab begins to play and Omar sashays out;
I remember his elaborate brown and black costume with gold decorations,
cymbals in his hand. He brings us all up and we begin to dance, especially with the females.
I remember being handed a belt with sequins and attach it around my belly
as the belly dancers teach me how to move my hips and to dance in beat with them.
I don’t remember the point at which the different courses of food were brought to us,
I do remember that Omar disappeared into the back when the meals were being served,
as not to bump into our serves with heavy trays; however the women kept sashaying,
we stopped dancing  to wash our hands in rose water and hot towels brought to our table.
I remember not liking the hummus, but loving the baba ghanouj and piled it onto Naan bread;
scarfing that eggplant goodness down until I see our main courses arrive and placed in front of me—
I remember the tastiness and juiciness of the rabbit, mixed in Moroccan sweetness with raisins;
rabbit tastes like chicken, the flavor melts in my mouth and I wish I could have more.
I remember our final dance, but we don’t dance it, as we eat our dessert bread with powdered sugar
with Turkish tea, strong as cappuccino and adding so much sugar to kill the taste.
I remember not wanting to leave after the music stopped two hours later, but we piled into the car
and cruised the highway back to King of Prussia, tiredness mixed with excitement, what a night!

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