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To Scherazade: Teller of Tales

The sheik wishing he could let Scherazade know how he has come to love her but must let her go


Lying here these thousand nights,

these torches dimming,

these pillows crushed,

our minds softened by the hours

and these cups of wine—

by the wildness of your tales,

your way with words,

yet feeling this moment

like sand falling through the glass

come to this.

You came to me that night.

sent by your father,

fearing the madness of my violent lust,

my hate.

Enraged at my power over you,

you entered my tent each night

certain you could dazzle me with words

and slip away unharmed

for another day.

You charmed me with your words,

your wildness, your mind.

You came to me when I motioned.

but you were never there,

and it was you I came to want,

not a slave girl wanting to escape.

There was magic in the way

you caused my mind to spin,

and it was you, not your tales,

that kept me wanting you to stay.

And when I saw your fear of me,

felt you fighting,

your insides hissing like a cat—

I tried with all the power in me

to ease your despair

tried in my clumsy ways

to let you know how deeply

I had come to care.

It hurts to see behind your smile

your fear of me,

see you play your part

like a puppet too frightened to come to life,

a mimic with too many masks.

It fills you with delight

to see your voice play on my soul,

holding me here.

It thrills you knowing I am dangling

like a locket in your hand,

twirling around and around and

around on your finger,

my mind a blur.

You love your power over me,

love entering my heart each night

like you do this tent,

stroking me as you speak,

my spirit swelling in wonder

at your mysteries,

love seeing in my eyes

my need to have you here

night after night.

And then, at dawn,

you love to kiss me on the cheek,

touch my lips,

my ears, my spine,

your fingers tickling me

until I laugh.

Your eyes sparkle as I reach for you,

floating off like a butterfly

in the morning breeze,

free again,

though sad, I think

from knowing you have come to love

your art too well.

I have sung your name to the morning star,

have sent my heart to you in poems,

placed bracelets on your arms,

these rings on your fingers,

these jewels in your hair,

these scarves of silk on your shoulders.

I have lain here these thousand nights,

in this fragrant air,

on these pillows,

listening to your tales,

aware that both of us are sharing

the best of what we have to give,

though not enough to fill each others heart

and ease the pain.

I have walked the desert,

have paced this tent,

have sat distracted,

mumbling,

my servants nodding,

but know of nothing I can do—

no song, no jewel, no rage—

to have you come and lie with me

because there’s no else you’d rather be,

and so,

after all of these nights,

I’m letting you go.

But oh,

if only I had ways to fill the air

with some perfume to let us dream,

some magic words beyond the usual

abra ca dab ra,

some lamp to rub,

some mist to shout my wishes to,

some carpet that would let me soar

inside of you,

some gesture, some simple way

to show how human I have come to

because of you,

how gentle.

But now the sand has fallen.

I will not have you come another night

to entertain a sheik and never me.

I cannot bear to see

you come into my tent,

night after night,

your scarves flowing,

your veil,

a curtain I cannot lift.

So, sweet teller of tales,

let us kiss farewell.

There is nothing I can do

stop the dawn

and keep you.

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