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The Road to Tunisia | Poem

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July 8, 1999

by Dandelion de la Rue


    Weleft on our long flight with great anticipation. 
I had spoken so often of North Africa, themysterious casabas, the smells of spices and hookahs, the little laughingchildren, the chickens and donkeys roaming through the dusty streets, thehustlers selling "genuine amber, genuine scarab, no baloney."  I wantedbread baked on hot desert stones, complete with ants.  I wanted tosmile at the camels and watch them smile back.
     I recalled the largegreen plants and flowers everywhere, the assortments of greens seen nowhereelse, I think.  And, most important, I wanted to walk in the footstepsof the ancients.  Here in America, we don't have very many footstepsof ancients.  Sure, the Indians were here, but I don't know wheretheir footsteps are, and anyway, it's just not my gene pool.  Theyweren't MY personal ancients.  My personal ancients, the ones whofascinate me the most, lived in the Mediterranean world.  I wantedthe footsteps of Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony, Hannibal, Homer.  Iwanted to walk where Ulysses walked.  I wanted to look out to seaand see the ghosts of the ancient pirate ships.  I wanted Third World,because it's my opinion that they are closer to the history I seek. I thought Tunisia would be Third World.
     I also thought aninteresting group of adventurers would live there, most of whom would looklike Humphrey Bogart or Michael Douglas.  A little community, I thought,with perhaps a coffee house just for expatriates, a place where we woulddiscuss things, write poetry, drink cheap red wine.  I wanted to KNOWTunisia, really know it, know which hustlers sold the real amber, whichpoliticians to bribe for a fast escape or favor, which roads led to Rome. I imagined sauntering up to a group of American tourists getting off theplane, casually telling them, (as I fitted a fresh cigarette into my ambercigarette holder), to avoid the third camel on the left, he bites.
      Just beforewe left, I'd found an old picture in an antique store, a picture of theThree Stooges trying to find the road to Tunis.  I mentally addedthe three stooges to my "walking in the footsteps of" list, not knowinghow truly prophetic this would be.
      But in themeantime, before I discovered there were really four stooges, I reveledin the thrill of the open sky.  I saw the tips of Greenland and Iceland. I flew over sunken viking ships, perhaps even the iceberg which slew theTitanic.  I wondered if there were any movie stars on board, and glancedaround.  Everyone slept, except an old man who alternately smokedand fondled his rosary beads, reminding me, with his fear, that flyingis for the brave, the courageous, the bold.
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