A Travel Poem


On the ferry to Langkawi, a Malay girl in jeans
rides on deck, letting her head scarf slide

down her hair until the wind takes it.
On the island, a woman hikes up loose pants,

kick-starts a scooter, head scarf flowing out
below her helmet.  In the beach cafe

a waitress, head wrapped in white, smiles wide,
mixing mai-tais at the swim-up bar.

It’s a shock to see the woman in the chador.
She’s a black tent, an enormous crow,

a question mark, a Rorschach blot, a wall.
“Not from here,” a Malay matron hisses.

“Maybe an Arab state.”  The next day it’s 93 degrees.
She sits in her beach chair in that chador watching

the waves.  Tiny jewels frame the slit that shows
her eyes.  Her husband’s hand snakes along

her shoulders.  What does she think of her bright sisters?
What does she think of me, crossing the strand in shorts

and T-shirt to wade in warm, shallow water? I stare at her,
and she stares back.  Without a face, her dark eyes

tell me nothing.  Slowly she lifts the veil that hides
her mouth, takes one small taste of orange juice.

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3 Responses to A Travel Poem

  1. I enjoyed your poem. Thanks for sharing. Great images.

  2. kaykuala says:

    It excites me to view your poem. Langkawi is so undisturbed. It’s exotic though facilities are a downside. Otherwise it’s a fun holiday. The jet ski island-hopping can bring one close to its natural beauty and lusciousness. Glad you made it here!

    You have observed right! We often wonder ourselves. Why is it necessary for Muslims to cover to extremes. The face and the hands (from the wrists to finger tips) can be exposed. Those pretty ones discard the purdahs. They wear headscarf and are still decent.

    Malaysian lasses are a mixed lot. Some cover up but not ‘black tents’ like. They sport colorful dresses even with headscarf. Those you’ve seen in Langkawi and commented rightly were the normal wear representative elsewhere in Malaysia. I made reference to Langkawi earlier in my other blog given below:



  3. Dick Jones says:

    Beautifully observed and rendered. How refreshing to read a poem that concentrates on the simple detail and frames the description and commentary in plain, unadorned language. I really enjoyed this poem and the one above.

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