Veiled Language

It is dark, it is warm,
the night smells of jasmine.
You are sitting in a circle of lamplight
drinking tiny glasses
of clear licorice-tasting spirit
with big glasses of water.

You are playing a game
with a woman of the city.
She wears black,
she has dark eyes
over her dark veil.
Her veil excites you.

Her eyes answer for her arms
for her body,
for her hidden lips.
You know she wants you
but she does not say so,
not with words.

Her arm brushes against yours
as she shakes the dice,
you shiver with desire.
You do not speak yet.
“Six,” she says,
and you hear her smile.

Later, you leave together,
walk through the dark streets
smelling the night scents,
a waft of garlic, somebody’s dinner.
You touch sometimes,
you have still hardly spoken.

She stops where a light spills
from a restaurant,
she looks up at you.
“My husband,” she says,
and then shakes her head;
“You wouldn’t understand.”

You wonder for a moment
what you understand.
The language she speaks
is neither hers nor yours.
There are great gaps in it,
so you take her hand.

“You are coming with me,” you say,
with no question,
and her fingers squeeze yours
and she says almost
too quietly to hear
“Yes. I will come.”

You go to your room,
your rented room,
painted white
your single bed
the high shuttered window,
the night scent of jasmine.

She takes off her veil
and her dark dress.
You see cream skin
heavy breasts, dark nipples,
dark marks curve up her belly
like tiger stripes.

Then she turns off the light
her skin is warm and smooth
her mouth is performing wonders,
you reach out
to touch her shoulder
and she goes stiff.

“What’s wrong, what is it?”
you ask, but she laughs
quietly against you, she says
“It is only that I don’t know you,
you could do anything,
anything you wanted.”

You could do anything;
what you do is touch her,
stroking her slowly,
your fingers learning
the language of darkness
the language of her body.

You pause, fumbling,
tearing the foil packet.
She takes the condom
and rolls it down
light as her breath
sure as her fingers

Then she grips firmly
moves with you, guides you
warmly inside her.
She moans in her throat
quietly wordless
dark night noises of delight.

At that you are only
man and woman
moving together
knowing without words
old thrusting dances,
desire and fulfillment.

At last you cry out too,
and it seems there are words
and you both say them.
Even as they pass your lips
they are gone into night
out of memory.

You fall asleep after,
you must have,
because you wake up
when she is dressing.
In the shutter’s edge dawnlight
she looks tired, and older.

Fumbling for words you ask;
“When can I see you?”
She half turns,
looks at you over her veil,
and says, already gone,
“You have never seen me.”

December 1999, Swansea.