Somewhere in the Bakbouka

On the stove,
turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, chilli
the faded colours of our kilim,  
rescued from a shanty town
of old dusty tins
high up on a shelf in the pantry.

Lamb fat dissolves,
marrow melts, flesh falls
into tomatoes, onion, spice, salt;
the rich red sauce thickening,
pools of oil rolling on its surface.

He inhales deeply.
'Something of home' he says,
the bakbouka murmuring
of Sabkhas, and a lemon-green sea.

'Years ago', he tells me,
'anything you had could go in'.
A cauldron of possibilities
before the limits of dogma.

Last of all the pasta cooks
in the unctuous sauce
with the bak-bak-bou-ka
of bubbles rising and bursting:
Berber, Arab, Italian
all trying to have their say.

I loved that he was a Muslim
who ate chorizo,  
and left behind
a thousand years of guilt;

that the oud's song
had accompanied him
all the way to York.

But eventually
Gaddafi had succeeded
in transplanting
someone else's benevolent smile
into his eyes.

Tristan Moss

If you have any thoughts on this poem,  Tristan Moss would be pleased to hear them.