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‘Trace’

after a map of the Arabian Peninsula from

Al Idrisi’s Kitab Rujar, 1154

 

I hardly recognise you, naked & nameless,

a green path, vital as a vein

snaking its way up to ard al iemama.

 

In early spring, desert thistles

align themselves with the stars,

a trail of crumbs for a camel caravan.

 

Now the stars have faded,

this land, a plantation of light –

 

I map the sky with my hands,

invoke satellites

with the flick of a thumb,

 

a blue dot guides me

over concrete hills, concrete fields,

highways always humming.

Rasha Al Duwaisan is a Kuwaiti oral historian living in Dubai. She completed an MA in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and spent a couple of years working at the Natural History Museum in London.

“This poem was written for J.R. Carpenter’s brilliant course, Writing Coastlines. We were asked to pick a coastal map and explore its poetic possibilities. Driving through the city of Dubai everyday, I am struck by the ways urbanisation and technology have affected ancient practices of navigation and how they have come to redefine our relationship with the natural world.”

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