Iraq Marga Ortigas Places Prose

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Where does one life end and another begin?
In the whirlwind of a sandstorm… how do you see the beloved’s face?

The beloved.
A mirage.

Is it not?
A mirage.

A creation of the very winds that carry the rainbow-coloured grains of sand up into the dry, dry
desert air.

Like words picked out of the multitudinous alphabet in a broken heart and carelessly cast on



The beloved.

How do you see its face?


? thgir ot tfel etirw ot thguat era ew ti si yhW
Why is it we can only make sense of things if they go in one predetermined direction?
How do we understand the language of the heart when we do not have a roadmap?

I sat in a teashop in Baghdad once.
It was summer then.

I held a cup of Arabic chai in my hand and stirred the leaves with a tiny silver spoon.
Phhhfoooo… phhhffoooo… went the numinous desert leaves…
phhfooo…. phhhffoooo…
and my future swirled around like an orange sandstorm turned brown.

in a frail, fragile glass,
in the cup of my clumsy hand,
it was suddenly dusk.
I held myriad possibilities in my calloused palm…
and I failed to mourn their deaths.

As leaf upon leaf
page upon page
of possibility
settled to the bottom…
another future died.

The caged bird sang a dirge above me and the old men sat weaving their eulogies.
Only the desert listened.

The worn-out ceiling fan carried their voices out into the dry dry summer air
Like rainbow-coloured grains of sand…

in a storm.
There is no roadmap to the desert.  There is no reading the sand.
The wind will blow and up you go… another grain thrown and carried to the sun.

It is in the desert we are reminded of the fragility of life.
pphhffoooo…. phhhffoooo…
and I failed to mourn our death

In a teashop in Baghdad, the men still sit.
The bird still sings its ageless tune, and the stories swirl around in gentle cups of chai.

I am not there

But I know this.

The desert told me.

Marga Ortigas is a journalist and communications coach who has worked for CNN International and Al Jazeera.

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