Covered with a thousand circus nights of words,
borne upon vapors of sound and vision,
arisen from endless rings of rhapsody and wonder,
I came to Harrar alone, thirsty and seeking.
In the Raj Hotel I waited for something,
perhaps a signal to start my quest.
An old Frenchman, grizzled by Africa,
offered to show me the sights of the city.
I said yes, and we went into the streets.
It was a maze of scarred and crumbled walls,
deep and narrow trenches across the hills,
like tortuous relics of a medieval World War I.
Rimbaud, are these the remnants of your heart?
Are these the last configurations of your mind?
He led me through the markets, past the mosques,
over the sites of a little-known history,
before the eyes of ancient colorful inhabitants
living by the nexus gates of caravans
from desert seas and far off mystic cities.
He took me to the tombs of unknown saints,
across the nameless graves of exotic voyagers,
into the tessellated shadows and light.
Rimbaud, is this your celestial miasma?
Is this your sacred confusion?
We walked outside the walls
on footpaths worn by countless naked feet,
known well to hyenas in the moonlit night.
We gazed across the rolling savannah
and beyond to the Danakil plains.
We gazed at the green phantasmagoric peaks
and the sun setting ferociously across the land.
He raised his arms to the earth and sky,
gestured vaguely to the town, and said,
"This is where the poet Rimbaud lived."