Djelloul Marbrook

Far from Algiers

An unnamed race slips by
ethnographer and xenophobe,
roiling bowels and hackles,
electrifying space.
Genomes tell us nothing
about our overlords;
we know we’re an underclass
to these corsairs and otherlings.
They break our doors at night,
take our wives and children,
foul our consensuses with ideas
and scat full-sail on glassy seas.
Though we take them to our beds
they’re unwelcome in our churches;
they profane our certainties
and stir up gifts renounced.
South of every guarded circle
is a Barbary where our rules
stand on their heads and dance
to tunes of turbans and scimitars.
Their ships fly no flags until
it’s far too late and we’re engaged
in the kind of bloodiness youth
prays for to spite the social good.
Every simpleminded day
guards against kidnappers,
every complacency has its dey
fat on ransom in some Algiers.
If there were no Barbary Coast
to haunt our dreams and genes
we’d eat potatoes, bed our cousins
and be as stupid as we want to be.

Djelloul Marbrook
“Far from Algiers” is from Far from Algiers (Kent State University Press, 2008).
Audio file of this poem is courtesy of Djelloul Marbrook and The Kent State University Press, from a CD of Marbrook reading the poems from his collection Far from Algiers.