I was once a swan
I conquered surfaces of waters
gleaming as they slipped
tickling my under belly
working their way to my neck
that revealed itself to slaughter
Daytime picked its grind
tossing me sideways
ripping parts of my wings
as I lay flat on the lake
a sacrifice to my ineptitude
my commonplace fantasy
of being no more
What is left of me loosens
at the edges; it parts
revealing scintillating facets
of places hidden within
where I search for my traces
when I moved head held high
unveiling my togetherness
I am still sometimes a swan
patching feather after feather
through my insides laid bare
retrieving lost wings
carved inside my memories
They speak of lost paradise
when we were all children
I see now the swan in her
fleetingly visible in the sun
shadows of her wings soaring
high above the green lake
I see her and feel the ache
She hides it gracefully
We were once swans
Reading of the poem:
Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" - Piano Sonata No.14 - Arr. G.Grant
It had been difficult to get Manas to surrender to the police in Cameroon. Not only because he would not have volunteered himself but also because she did not feel like turning him in. The time before she had taken him to the police was filled with days of laughing and visiting the forests and nights of lovemaking. One night though, she had realized that her team was closing in on them and she had confessed everything to Manas. More important was the fact that she confessed to him that his case would be better off with the local policeman than with the anti-terrorist team who had been asked to either bring him alive to justice or just shoot him if their mission was starting to be difficult. The morning after she had the realization about her team, they hid in a truck which was then driven towards the police station in Douala, Cameroon. The truck had dropped them off at the police station where she had asked to be dispatched to the US Embassy as a US Citizen with diplomatic status. Manas was immediately taken by the police and put in chains. Before being put in separate rooms he had walked towards her, his eyes shining and a smile on his face and told her that they would soon be together again.
She did not hear from him again for several weeks and she had been demoted and posted in Dubai where her anti-terrorist expertise was not used. She dwelt very little on the terrible things that had happened in the first two weeks before she was relocated. Her boss was seething at her initially for not having brought Manas to the drop off point as agreed when she met him or at least put the explosive and plant the trigger so they could bomb the shack where the marriage was taking place. After some thought, she was not fully let go off but was assigned to the trade commissioner’s team and meant to bridge between the UAE nationals’ companies and the US corporate interests in the UAE. While she was in the UAE, she had been contacted several times by someone who wrote to her at the UAE number that she had got from one of her procurement associates that she worked with, out of the sphere of her official job. The writing seemed extremely similar to the words that Manas would use. She started getting used to the daily communication and wrote as if it were Manas himself indeed writing to her. At one point her correspondent suggested meeting at a café in a mall and she went there but did not meet anyone. Just before she had left the café, however, someone with the stature of Manas but with hair had attempted to get inside the café before looking pointedly towards the right and aborting his attempt. She had then seen stroll through three emiratis in their national outfit. It was obvious, however, to her trained eyes that these were secret service agents. It looked like they just did not want the encounter to happen but disturbed neither her nor the man who had fled the mall.
After that potential brief encounter, the job she was doing was no longer sufficient to take her mind of Manas and was not even remotely connected to what she wanted to do so she had resigned. She was now an adviser on security in the private sector and most of her work was around choosing the right security teams for different types of jobs as well as building secure hideouts or camps for different types of individuals or corporates. Initially recruited by a security company in Dubai, she had slowly branched out of the Gulf and then started her own security company in the UK, advising high net worth individuals and corporates on security. She was based in London and had very few friends but was all the much better for it. Friends were a liability that brought you down in hostage situations and she did not want to have that kind of a weight put on her shoulders. It was then that Manas had reached out to her directly first sending a message to her phone and then contacting her over whatsapp. She had watched with longing as his face filled the screen, smiling like he had done when she had first met him. “Hello my angel”, he said and the tears had welled in her eyes. She knew that it was not him but his terrorist gang who had got to her the first two weeks after he had been turned over to the policeman but his face rekindled those dark memories. At the same time, she could not look at his face without feeling such elation.
3 Daqat - Abu Ft. Yousra
She was walking for almost an hour now, always with the Thames by her side. Her thoughts went back to Manas and how she had met him first in a small hut-like construction in Cameroon. She had landed quite abruptly in the field near his house and had hid the parachute under the sand and foliage beneath the trees. She had removed her jumping gear and shoved it under the sand before straightening her clothes. She could not see the remaining members of her team and remembered that she had seen no member of her team jump after her. She knew what her mission was anyway: look for and then report Manas once she had identified him. She had headed towards the house and found the household in great agitation and fuss, celebrating a marriage.
Without further warning, she had been whisked into the cohort and had become part of the celebration. With her local clothes on, nobody suspected her of any ulterior motive than just the wedding celebration. She had looked around for Manas and identified him sitting next to the bride. She looked at the wristwatch with the small camera, but the camera place seemed damaged. She had turned it nevertheless towards Manas and the bride, hoping that the camera would transmit the images of Manas to her team in the airplane that seemed to have vanished in the skies.
They probably will come back after viewing the images sent by her camera she had thought. She had sunk into a small couch next to several other women and joined the celebrations, keen to keep her identity safe. Manas had walked over towards her, his smile engaging and charming like she was told it would be. Her boss had predicted accurately that she would be Manas’ type and that this would lead him to bring his guard down. Manas had bowed towards her, with his hand extended, inviting her to dance alongside him like the Muslims in Cameroon did. She had stood up and had slowly been taken by the banter and the dance and almost forgotten what she had come here to do.
She looked back at the Thames and threw a stone in it, watching the ripples grow as the water was displaced by the impact. One of the images that haunted her mind was Manas standing in front of the policemen in Cameroon where she had taken him, and he had not fled. He was free now, walking sometimes in the streets of London when he needed to but all she could think of was the Manas in chains in Cameroon smiling at her, with his followers at his side. She realized that the only reason Manas was free now was because some policemen in Cameroon admired his jihadism and one of them had released him making use of the lax state of security in Cameroonian prisons.
Her story with Manas had been a very controversial one when her boss realized that she was actually falling in love with the man she was supposed to bring to justice. She had been demoted and was no longer on the anti-terrorist team so she resigned and joined the private sector. She thought back to how the story had evolved. It seemed so long ago now while it had only been 6 months since she had first met him. She remembered how he had reached out to her when he had first got out of prison. She had wondered how he had found her in London as she was not on the phonebook and not a registered voter. She threw another stone in the Thames and realized that it was raining, making more ripples than with just her stone. Her love story with Manas had begun in a very strange way so it was probably just as well that it could lead to strange things. She let her mind drift…
There was no explanation for what had just happened. He seemed to think that everything was her fault and she thought that he did not seem to have outgrown the childish level where everything was always the fault of someone else than himself. She decided that this time she had had it with the accusations and all the heartache that he had been giving her over the past few weeks. It had first started when something went awry in the business and he had resorted to her for help but she could not and he had then blamed her for being so incapable of helping him while he was in dire need. It was not that she had not tried and try she had repeatedly with shady figures that she would have normally never dealt with, but it was simply that the outcome had been negative. He had of course only looked at the negative outcome and ignored all her efforts to reach that result.
Every time the accusation had been either that she did not love him enough to try harder or that she did not trust him enough despite all the love he had showered on her. When she thought back to it, however, she realized that it all seemed like a puzzle painstakingly pieced together to create the illusion of reality with ready-made items of the puzzle springing from his past. The more she thought about it the more she realized that it had never quite felt like real love although the declaration of it had been overly intense. At first she had been puzzled and her natural instinct had been wariness, especially with what her sister had to say about it, but in time the sheer quantity of love messages had gotten to her and as she had a soft heart, she had let herself be persuaded that it was indeed an intense budding love.
The last time he had resorted to her for help it was for something that could have put her livelihood at risk but at first she had jumped up to help without paying attention to the request despite all the news she had heard and her work training. A few minutes later though, the doubt on whether what he was asking of her was legit started gnawing at her mind which had buzzed alit from the previous training. When she went to the bank, sure enough, they confirmed to her that what was proposed was illegal and that she could get into big trouble for it. As a result of her discussion with the bank, they had closed her account and she was left without a bank account and without time to open a new one in time for her salary to be paid to her.
With hindsight she realized that this was the least of her worries as she could have gotten into much worse trouble had she not reached out to her bank. Indeed, she would have been suspected by their compliance of being a money mule and potentially charged with money laundering. What had she been thinking when she had given him her bank details, especially after he had asked her to transform the money received from his contact into bitcoins and send it across to his bitcoin account! There was no justification for her foolishness and to add insult to injury, he was now angry with her that she had gone to the bank to check in the first place whether such a thing could be done. Their last exchanges were cold and bitter and she thought to herself that the next time she would be wary of anyone who professed so quickly to be intensely in love. You live and learn she thought. What an experience!
She did not see him often over whatsapp these days as he was usually busy with his work and then would just crash on his couch to forget the stress of the day. She felt she should ask him to be more available but it was only three months since they met on a dating site and she felt it might be premature to ask more of his time. She decided instead to be less available herself to avoid the feeling of discomfort she felt when waiting for him to be available. She thought it absurd that at the beginning of their relationship they should already be behaving like an old couple each with their own interests and hardly available for each other.
She could hear skype ringing in the background. She glanced at her laptop and saw that it was him. For some reason he did not seem to want to use whatsapp. Her finger paused over the answering button and she slowly withdrew it. She let the laptop ring again as he persisted. She slowly inched out of the view of the camera as if he could see her even without her answering the skype call. She wondered if she was being childish but then again she wanted to be needed and not always readily available at his beck and call while he had been so unavailable the past days.
She returned to her laptop once the skype call had stopped and started watching videos. Her whatsapp starting ringing and she could see it was him again. She almost answered before checking herself and keeping her hands tightly to her sides. The phone buzzed and she could see it was him again. A message appeared on her screen “Where are you. I need to talk to you”. She could hardly contain herself so she made a trip to the bathroom where she plucked her eyebrows conscientiously.
She returned after a while. There were several messages. She read through them slowly and one caught her attention. It said “I feel I don’t deserve you sometimes. I am just overwhelmed by the day’s work and hardly have any energy and you are always there with so much energy and kindness. I want to make it up to you, to be a better partner. I want to deserve you. The love you give, it is unique. Call me when you are free”. She smiled. Her finger hovered over the button to the right of his image. He seemed to look at her pleadingly. She pressed the button and saw his face come alive instantaneously. “Hi”…
In some Muslim countries, the women guilty of adultery or even of having an affair without being married are buried in the ground and stoned with the obvious result being death in most cases. Sickeningly in some countries even the victims of rape may sometimes be sentenced in the same way as adulterers or women having an affair. This poem is written to raise awareness of the conditions under which even a young teenager who would have been free to love in other countries may incur the death penalty and be stoned to death for the “crime” of being caught with her lover in isolation. I chose to accompany this poem with a beautiful video showing elements from the cosmos to emphasize the gulf that separates some people from the vastness of the cosmos.