Fata Morgana

Yusef Komunyakaa
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I could see thatch boats. The sea
swayed against falling sky. Mongolian
horses crested hills, helmets edging the perimeter,
& I saw etched on the horizon scarab insignias.
The clangor of swords & armor echoed
& frightened scorpions into their holes,
& the question of zero clouded the brain.
I saw three faces of my death foretold.
I sat at a table overflowing with muscadine & quince,
but never knew a jealous husband poisoned the Shiraz.
I laughed at his old silly joke about Caligula
lounging in a bathhouse made of salt blocks.
I was on a lost ship near the equator,
& only a handful of us were still alive,
cannibal judgment in our eyes.
I came to a restful valley of goats & dragon lizards,
but only thought of sand spilling from my boots.
I witnessed the burning of heretics near an oasis,
& dreamt of gulls interrogating seahorses, cuttlefish,
& crabs crawling out of the white dunes.
I could see the queen of scapegoats
donning a mask as palms skirted the valley.
I was lost in a very old land, before Christ
& Mohammed, & when I opened my eyes
I could see women embracing a tribunal
of gasoline cans. I heard a scuttling
on the sea floor. I knew beforehand
what surrender would look like after
long victory parades & proclamations,
& could hear the sounds lovemaking
brought to the cave & headquarters.

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