Poems From the Alcazar

The Alcazar, situated right in the heart of Sevilla, is the city’s Medieval and Mudejar castle. It is the more understated sibling of the Alhambra in Granada.

 

Its position in the city couldn’t be more central; it neighbours the monumental Cathedral of Sevilla. And yet, unlike the flashy, dominating Cathedral, the Alcazar is discreetly hidden behind fantasy-like walls that are as subtle as its gardens.

Inside, the real gem of this palace, are the Moorish areas. The courtyard of maidens is forest of ornate columns with a vein of water running through it that perfectly reflects the architecture surrounding it.

All around the walls and the various rooms are etched kufic verses into the very walls. The room where Ferdinand and Isabella, the new Catholic monarchs of a reunified Spain, gave their blessing to Columbus’ expedition, features a domed Mudejar ceiling that represents the majesty of the heavens.

The Moors who ruled Sevilla until the 13th century created an art form that sought to recreate the gardens of paradise here on earth. And since Islamic art forbids the depiction of living forms, their use of geometric designs and stellar representations inspires the imagination.

Theirs was a subtle, iceberg-style art.

And then you enter the Catholic palace. And suddenly you are surrounded by giant paintings depicting entire scenes from Spanish and New Testament history. I’m used to this sort of art. This is the Baroque I’m familiar with in Malta. And now, suddenly, it seemed gaudy, overbearing, crass and artless.

Compared with the nuanced Moorish rooms and gardens, the Christian rooms and art was overbearing. It was far too political. A big f-you to the previous Islamic rulers of the city. And I felt no love for it. Just as I would later feel no love for the Trumpian pomposity of the Cathedral itself.

The contrast, however, was revealing to me, as a writer. It confirmed my belief in minimalism. The Moorish rooms were an incarnation in stone of Hemingway’s iceberg theory and Yasunari Kawabata’s haiku-esque simplicity.

I used to be a Baroque writer before. Writing long, floral passages, describing everything, digressing about science and philosophy. But that sort of writing should be reserved for non-fiction. I instead want to be a transient writer that gives his readers just enough fodder for their imagination to run wild.

And so, overwhelmed with this conciliatory epiphany, I sat down on the steps overlooking the courtyard of maidens and spent an hour writing poems as hordes of curious tourists flowed past me.

 

 

Casida of Maidens

 

Stalactite of honey,

Silence is your tongue.

 

Silence, a shadow

Dreams in kufic.

Silence, a grin grins

Like a conquering cross.

 

Water smiles columns,

Trees in the waves.

 

Waves bathed in silhouettes

Floating orange blossoms.

The sun has nothing to say

And the waves aren’t real.

 

 

Beauty and Freedom

 

A cloud of grooves

Disappears in the waves

 

Floating arches like eyes

Tinkering with soft memories.

 

Everything I touch fades away

Like some honeycomb mirage.

 

Nothing wreathed in beauty

Can ever sink.

 

There is nothing to freedom

But a floating wave.

 

Ghazal of False Afterlifes

 

The spiraling arches

Encrusted in stolen blue,

The swirling geometric madness,

A shadowed breeze

Floating on mirrored waters;

These are history’s

True conquistadors.

 

Beauty that doesn’t even

Know itself or its name

– Here lies man’s immortality –

Beauty, men have called you

Heaven, Olympus and Valhalla.

Beauty, here you are the poem

Cascading through the courtyard.

 

Quick! Throw me a pen

From the arched balcony.

 

 

Peace in War

 

A minaret in the sunshine

An altar in the shadows.

 

The sun warms the shade.

 

A crucifix in the sunlight

Kufic verses in silhouette.

 

The shade cools the sunlight.

 

Night chases away the day

And the day dreams of night.

 

The minaret warms the altar.

 

The limestone verses drink blood

And the tapestried saints vanquish vampires.

 

The minaret warms the altar

– Ole!

 

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