Timur the Lame

A man with a limp came towards me,
begging money for liquor – spoke of cairns
built of skulls, of the wind off the steppes
on the night before battle
and the evils of cholesterol.

Some of this, I thought, he must be making up.
Besides, what was I doing here,
talking with a dead Mongol warrior,
in the middle of the life that was mine?

At the end of the street, some camels
grazing, the air mottled with flies
above ribbons of goat flesh…
Even the tourists look sick.
Even the women, that day, were not untouched.

He said: You think a life
has a beginning, middle and end?
Then he emptied his pockets
and showed me the eyes of Hafiz.

Charles Boyle


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