For Sadiya Hassan Jimale

I walk the streets of Nazareth. Not in Israel, but Ethiopia. It’s the smell walk. Every house burns. It burns frankincense. The fumes surround my white face and make it yellow. The men of Nazareth walk in hosgunti and are good at addressing you literally. “You,” they say all the time. All narratives are told here in the second person. Now I’m convinced that George Perec was here too. “You,” the woman also says, “lift your garment, smell your own body first, and, then, step into the smoke.” Autumn is the color of amber, lacrima heliandum is the color of my naked body, but the white incense is the best. “We do what we can,” the Somali woman tells me. “Smell is distinctive in itself, but here, away from home, we make no distinctions.” “Inshallah,” I say, and the wise woman replies in Italian, “In bocca al lupo”. “You smell, now” she says, but the levonah, the white incense, makes me think of Ketav Levonah, the White Torah. Shmuel ben Aharon-Wahli tells us that the white text is the literal text of the Torah. “The White Text is a reading of the scrolls according to the perfect image of which it writes – that being the image of Mashiyach, the complete measurement of Man.” I burn with the desire to smell, so I stop listening to his going over the Black Text. The text of sin. The black woman instructs me now, and I take her teachings to my heart. I start speaking in Latin, though. My own burning bush addresses nature with beatific boldness: “Tu, Boswellia Sacra, a posse ad esse”. My humble self says, “Mahadsanid.”


Bent said…
The Heliades (three sisters, or four, or more) turned into poplar trees and wept tears of amber (plop, plop) for their lost brother Phaëton, who drove his father Helios' chariot, the sun, too close to Earth, thereby scorching most of Africa and blackening the skin of the Ethiopians. What a Brian that Phaëton was! Zeus had to zap him with a thunderbolt, so he fell out of the car and into the river Eridanos (where all the amber now flows) and drowned...

Or so says Ovid, sitting in Constanza, bullshitting the Romans, and the rest of us.

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