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Taxim from the Café Amane

by Robin Magowan

The only grief that matters
stands by the staircase
unable to go out without a hat.
It secretly selects love-torn
articles that contain the moon
slavering far above the Bosphorus.
Those huge luminous speckles—
people!—seem mere raindrops
bearing November anguish
across trees waiting for snow
to circulate its tell-tale tracks.
Grief selects moments when light
disappears from the walls
and only rectangles converse
in scraps of torn pages,
a remembered hair-thick cigarette.
Then music—light invisible!—sparkles,
splays, and grows dim again
in a few directionless quaverings.
So much, so fleeting! Why in my palace
is it always raining? the pasha laments,
turning a shell in his fastidious hand,
reminded of the collection of ruins
he presides over, their lures
stretching shelf upon self,
ever more obscure.

Notes: A “taxim” is a modal improvisation that never breaks into rhythm, though it often foreshadows a song. An “amane” is a wailing cry. Depending on a singer’s artistry, it can take up the whole of a vocalized taxim.


Robin Magowan is a poet and travel writer who lives and works in the Berkshire Mountains of northwestern Connecticut. Among his books are a travel collection, Improbable Journeys, and an autobiography, Memoirs of a Minotaur. His most recent book of poems is The Rim of Dawn, published by Pasdeloup Press. (4/2006)

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