Michael L. Newell
I have lived approximately one third of my life outside my home country of the United States. I have been a teacher, a professional actor, a federal bureaucrat, and a life long nomad, even here in the states. My work has appeared in sixty or so magazines in the states and a half dozen magazines in England. After a 27 year career as a secondary school English teacher, twenty of which were spent abroad, I retired to coastal Oregon 14 months ago where I lead a quiet life which includes walking five or six miles most days. I have had ten chapbooks and one book published, all of which are out of print.
Coming to Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates, 1991
I landed on an island broiling under a desert sun;
humidity drenched me; I felt the earth
rock when I stood still, the earth
rock when I moved, the earth slip from grasp
of toes fingers mind, felt only spin
and whirl of planet and sun.
Ugly high-rises littered the streets. I stared at clumps
of pedestrians, stunned by color, stunned by movement, stunned
by cloth, garment, shape, stunned
by details of gesture, shrug, bodies draping curbs
midnight and beyond in animated conversation
witnessed from an air-conditioned eighth floor window.
The wail of mosque-hidden voices
praising Allah and summoning a world to prayer
rose around me with the voice of the desert:
ancient, full-throated, impassioned as a gale.
Now I stroll streets choked with taxis, children, veiled
women, Bedouin robes, three-piece suits, Muslim, Buddhist,
Christian, Hindu; faces charcoal, chocolate, ruddy,
pink, cafe au lait; streets plowed by the devout,
the agnostic, the ascetic, the man proud of his new car
too big to challenge in the traffic ritual of dare and counterdare
punctuated by percussion of horn, tire squeal, and accelerating engines.
Windows and balconies fly flags of laundry; stairwells
and sidewalks contain children ricocheting
off walls, adults, and each other; air conditioners drip
on passersby; clusters of men — Arab, African, Indian, Afghani, Filipino —
clot benches, falafel stands, small restaurants and patches of grass, talking,
arguing, laughing, waving arms while voices rise and fall; soccer
erupts, around five, on every open field and empty parking lot.
I try to utter words which make sense; my tongue splits
and argues with itself in languages I do not speak or recognize.
I have spent a lifetime in corners staring
at bodies and faces which know and welcome one another. Now
I inhabit streets no one claims as home, where everyone rents
a street corner, a curb, a top floor for temporary shelter. Now I live
among the desperate (twelve to a room and families thousands of miles away).
Our lives are defined by a blind search for entry
to rooted chambers of the world. We try on languages
like others try on suits. We search for sounds that are familiar. We burrow
everywhere we see an opening.
©2016 Michael L. Newell