For your consideration

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I do not know if any of the students are really reading each other’s work, so only one person may ever see this.  Either way it is a poem I stumbled across while looking for a favorite short story of mine in a collection of my favorite author’s work.  It is an interesting representation of our heroine Scheherazade in the hands of a modern Western male author.

 

Inventing Aladdin

In bed with him that night, like every night,

her sister at their feet, she ends her tale,

then waits.  Her sister quickly takes her cue,

and says, “I cannot sleep.  Another, please?”

Sheherazade takes one small nervous

                breath

and she begin, “In faraway Peking

there lived a lazy youth with his mama.

His name?  Aladdin.  His papa was dead…”

She tells them how a dark magician came,

claiming to be his unckle, with a plan:

He took the boy out to a lonely place,

gave him a ring he said would keep him safe,

dropped in a cavern filled with precious stones,

“Bring me the lamp!” and when Aladdin won’t,

in darkness he’s abandoned and entombed…

 

There now.

 

Aladdin locked beneath the earth,

she stops, her husband hooked for one

                more night.

Next day

she cooks

she feeds her kids

she dreams…

Knowing Aladdin’s trapped,

and that her tale

has bought her just one day.

What happens now?

She wishes she knew.

 

It’s only when that evening comes around

and husband says, just as he always says,

“Tomorrow morning, I shall have your head,”

when Dunyazade, her sister, asks, “But please,

what of Aladdin?”  Only then, she knows…

 

And in a cavern hung about with jewels

Aladdin rubs his lamp.  The Genie comes.

The story tumbles on.  Aladdin gets

the princess and a palace made of pearls.

Watch now, the dark magician’s coming back:

“New lamps for old,” he’s singing in the street.

Just when Aladdin has lost everything,

she stops.

 

He’ll let her live another night.

 

Her sister and her husband fall asleep.

She lies awake and stares up in the dark

Playing the variations in her mind:

the ways to give Aladdin back his world,

his palace, his princess, his everything.

And then she sleeps.  The tale will need and end,

but for now it melts to dreams inside her head.

 

She wakes,

She feeds the kids

She combs her hair

She goes down to the market

Buys some oil

The oil-seller pours it out for her,

decanting it

from and enormous jar.

She thinks,

What if you hid a man in there?

She buys some sesame as well, that day.

Her sister says, “He hasn’t killed you yet.”

“Not yet.”  Unspoken waits the phrase, “He will.”

 

In bed she tells them of the magic ring

Aladdin rubs.  Slave of the Ring appears…

Magician dead, Aladdin saved, she stops.

But once the story’s done, the teller’s dead,

her only hope’s to start another tale.

Scheherazade inspects her store of words,

half-built, half-baked, ideas and dreams combine

with jars just big enough to hide a man,

and she thinks, Open Sesame, and smiles.

“Now Ali Baba was a righteous man,

but he was poor…” she starts, and she’s away,

and so her life is safe for one more night,

until she bores him, or invention fails.

She does not know where any tale waits

before it’s told.  (No more do I.)

But forty thieves sounds good, so forty

thieves it is.  She prays she’s bought

                another clutch of days.

 

We save our lives in such unlikely ways.

-Neil Gaiman

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