Casbah, by Judith Terzi

Casbah, by Judith Terzi


Eldridge Cleaver whizzed around Algiers / in a red VW bus, zipping past / the American School, flipping us teachers // peace signs.

SKU: 978-1-944252-12-0 Category: Tags: , ,

A lyric meditation on the language of our lives, the sometimes exalted disorientation of the expat, the names we adopt and the ones we can’t master, Judith Terzi leads us into the geopolitical landscapes of the Algiers of her early marriage, lush with the colors, smells and tastes of the Mediterranean and spiked with sharp echoes of the times, when so much was in flux, both there in North Africa, and back home.


When it comes to water in Algiers, 
I can never reason. Perpetual flow 
of the Mediterranean, turquoise 

silk bathing the port, view from my 
terrace. But turn on the tap, fickle 
conduit, torrent tiring to stream, 

stream to drizzle, to tear evaporating. 
A relationship shifting? Deserting 
perhaps: passion of the love traveler 

no longer a thriving oasis of herders, 
cloth, clay vessels. And what about 
goat hair carpets, basketry? And these 

bright yellow, orange, ochre jewels–– 
spices cradled in burlap like the place 
itself nestled inside the desert hollow 

of the M’Zab Valley. Oh Saharan sun 
of Ghardaïa, city over a thousand years 
old. Not one other woman in the main 

square this Sunday. Not one haik flowing 
over clothing, covering for all but one 
eye of woman here. Only the elegance 

of men in turbans, their chèches: dusty 
orange, white, cobalt blue. Marketplace 
of men. My photo taken in the shadows 

of a slender passageway before ramparts 
begin to rise toward Allah. Before 
the tourist must halt at the sign picturing 

that shorts, short sleeves, uncovered heads, 
cameras are forbidden. And further up, 
pink and white houses of clay and sand 

surround the ancient mosque like moats. 
Tenth century mosque––sturdy shield, 
sentry of the fortress. And in the lower 

town, the newer mosque, the muezzin 
calling at 4AM: rush of shoes echoing 
on flat ground, sweeping through 

alleyways like the palm frond sweeper 
of dreams, the andante of his broom 
lengthening measures of unrestrained 

pleasure. Like water gushing from a tap, 
the contours of jerricans flooding. Bath 
beads of lavender longing to be swished.