Brandon Marlon

Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. (Hon.) in Drama and English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry has been published variously in Canada, the U.S., England, Greece, Romania, Israel, and India. www.brandonmarlon.com.

 

Four Poems (May, 2015. Issue 50.)

Spiced Wine

Amid the bluster of scandal,
Jerusalem’s heir sired a paean,
an ode to Makeda of Sheba,
ebony like his royal curtains.

Her curled lips dripped honey,
her perfumed fingers calamus,
her obsidian breasts bulged
as soft mounds of cinnamon.

When kissing her warm mouth,
he relished her scented breath
flavored from orchard apples
ripe and picked the day before.

Sampling her pomegranate cheeks
then tasting her balsam temples
left Israel’s monarch enamored,
inebriated by the queen of spices.

Luring him from Judaic vineyards
to fragrant gardens of choice fruits
caused her hennaed navel to swell
as humps of her southern camels.

The Torahs Wore White 
 
They attire themselves in finery,
gold threads sown into plush bodices
velvet and milky white,
soft to the touch, precious to the soul,
their wooden handles crowned
with glistening headdresses of silver
forged and fashioned,
a regal array of sacred tomes on display.
 
This is Atonement Day, when
Jews raise parchment scrolls
heavenward, knowing full well
that at this hour, more than any other,
it will be the scrolls in turn propping them up,
as myriad individuals, as a single people,
advocating staunchly for each and all
in the hallowed presence of the Most High.

Harim

Immured within opulent quarters,
mortal houris burdened by leisure
lounged barefooted by fountains
in a sorority of giggling maidens.

Enwrapped in translucent veils,
bejeweled with jingling silver,
they sunned themselves daily,
nightly mongering fresh gossip.

Each was called upon in turn
at the whim of her master,
chosen after careful scrutiny
by amorous caliph or sultan.

Venturing from cushioned ease
to grand bedchambers of power,
alluring creatures enacted feats,
spinning limbs and tales to thrill.

Nude beneath her snoring patron,
marinated in his breath and sweat,
the harim’s envoy execrated fate,
pining for pillow talk with sisters.

Syrian Lioness (1)

Leaving Aleppo to withdraw into desert,
the widowed queen Mawiya
marshalled confederate forces amid
soughing winds and swirling dust,
laying the groundwork for warfare
fought along denominational lines.

An imperious Valens, caught unawares,
had hardly reckoned on the late, heirless sheikh
al-Hawari’s wife, evidently extraordinary,
mustering tribal warriors in guerrilla strikes;
lanced cavalrymen deprived foes of finite targets,
even besting legions in pitched battles.

Rome, outmaneuvered and humiliated,
sued the victress for salaam, installing the ascetic
Musa of Sinai as Arabian bishop
per the queen’s orthodox diktat,
with princess Chasidat’s betrothal to
the officious Victor cementing the measure.

In exchange for restored status and privileges,
Mawiya’s auxiliaries robustly abetted
Rome against the Goths, a ferocious clash
hastening the heterodox Valens’ end
and, with historic irony, leaving civilized
Constantinople’s defence to wilderness’ sons.

Betraying their rendering of loyal service,
Theodosius, newly wreathed, disfavored the Tanukh,
whose indignant nomads and sedentaries
confronted a better prepared empire
quelling this reprised revolt within months
then transferring patronage to the southern Salih.

Mawiya largely replayed Zenobia’s fate,
yet fared better than her forerunner
by doggedly clinging to domestic vistas,
retiring to Anasartha on wasteland’s fringes
where at length she met death characteristically,
on her own terms, warmed by honor’s memory.

(1) Queen Mavia or Mawiya of Syria (r. 375-425 C.E.)

The Legendary