Marjory Woodfield
from Litany of Travel

Cover Image - Moonrise, Lofoten

Mud Brick Village, Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, Photo by Marjory Woodfield

Litany of Travel | At Jubilee Market

The Orchardist’s Wife | Desert Rose

Clematis along St Mary Church Street

Litany of Travel

It’s a slow procession from the elephant orphanage to the river.
The watch needs repair.
His arm around her shoulders.
Clutter of sandals. Noon prayer.
The pistachio halva is the sweetest.
There, on that ledge, by the cave church, bleached bones.
After Hajj he painted a plane and the Ka’aba on the wall of his house.
Men cast lines from the bridge.
A small red hat among the pomegranates. Who’s playing hide and seek?
The flat-topped mud brick houses, all empty.

At Jubilee Market

(The heart of Covent Garden)

Cries of London. She sells lavender in a faded print.
Silver teaspoons. The gift card reads, Best wishes
for your future happiness.
“I’m a bit of a hoarder,
he says, rifling through a box labeled Odds and Ends.
It runs in my family. You always think
it might be worth something.”

The top comic on the pile is Masters of Kung Fu
In the distance she sings opera. O mio Bambina Caro.
He holds up an Arabic coffee pot. “Good quality.
See the signature. Only 15 pounds.” Highways
and Byways of Kent.
Illustrated by Hugh Thompson.

Loose leaves. Broken binding.
“Turkish,” he says, “Ottoman Empire.”
He wears a sequined cap. Rainbow colours.
“I like your hat,” she says. Cupid shoots arrows
in silver sequins across her lapel.
“The mirror is yours for 10 pounds.”

The Orchardist’s Wife

They plant tomatoes, eggplant, okra, black-eyed peas
because now apples are no longer enough.
There are hives where the apples end and
beyond the hives, signs that say Danger Landmines
with exclamation marks and red triangles.
The bees are safe because they do not read the signs.

In the evening she sets the table.
Places dishes.
Her own kubbeh,
majadara, balls of burghul
and meat, cooked in laban.

Tomorrow she will walk
from Majdal Shams
to the barbed wire boundary
where red sumac berries
can sometimes be found. Call
across the Valley of Tears

We drive to Golan Heights.
Soldiers change shift.
The Druze farmer sells apples,
honey from the hives at the end of his orchard
jams and pickles made by his wife.

Desert Rose

We sail from Aswan to the Island of Philae. Waters of the Red Sea. Distant Nubian desert mountains. Walk through the Temple of Isis. Photograph this and that. Pylons. Columns. Small stands of merchandise. The familiar. Hibiscus flowers and cinnamon bark. The unfamiliar.
Flowers and leaves die and fall.
Drying branches curl inwards,
form a ball. After the roots die
the plant is blown about by
desert winds. Tumble weed.
Rose of Jericho.

Al Barah Fort sits on a desert promontory. A Bedouin farmer and his camel herd goats. We stop. Kasuko points. “Dig here,” she says. Just above the water table, buried in sand, we find them.
Crystal clusters of gypsum,
grains of salt. The crystals
shaped liked fans of petals.
Arabian Desert Rose.

This morning in my garden, a flower from the desert. Persian sands. Nipped by the early frost.
Rosa Persica
Bright as a Button.

Clematis along St Mary Church Street

It finds a way through bricks and mortar.
Outside St Mary Rotherhithe Charity School
two small plaster figures on plinths overlook
The Mayflower where hanging baskets are
burdened with lavender, primroses, daisies,
violets, trailing ivy. They stare down the Thames
Path. See the mudlarks. Up to their knees in it.
Glint of a copper nail. Nugget of coal.

We climb down steps to the Brunel Museum Shaft for tonight’s
pop-up opera performance. Hansel and Gretel. It is dark.

Marjory Woodfield is a New Zealand teacher and writer who's lived in the Middle East. She’s been published by the BBC, Raven Chronicles, Cargo Literary, Raintown Review, Meniscus Literary Journal, Flash Frontier, takahē and others. She won the 2018/2019 Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature Robert Burns Poetry Competition and received a commendation in the 2019 Hippocrates Open Awards for Poetry and Medicine. Her work appears in Pale Fire - New Writing on the Moon (Frogmore Press), Best Small Fictions 2019 (Sonder Press), and the 2019 Bath Flash Fiction Anthology.

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