Talking Timbuktu

Inspired by the song "Ai Du" by Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder

The guitar, with a sound like that

Of blues stirred like silt

On the Mississippi Delta, saunters

Around the café. It rolls

Through the split shadows of blue and red

As partners alternate between dancing and

Scorching their throats with amber drinks

That clink like jewelry in their glasses.

The stage hazes in a swirl of

Cigarette smoke, concealing the dark man

Inwardly burning as he moans a sorrowful song

In a tongue from Timbuktu. Snaps and claps

Echo softly from the crowd, while cymbals hiss

In affirmation of the Mali man's soulful wail.

A woman with short, black curls like syrup

Swings her hips slowly through the fluid air,

The rouge on her alabaster cheeks

Melting under the weight of sweat and steam.

Lightly, she touches the onyx beads

Sinking into her collarbone, her fingers slick

With moisture. A sense of slumber fills the bar,

Trapped in the ribbons Of viola that ripple

Through the air under the singer's voice.

Still, the blistering melody tumbles under

Swaying silhouettes, an undulating mass

Of arms and legs divided into shadows

Of red, black, and blue.

Becky Boyle