4 At 4:00 am
At 4:00 am, Salm woke up with the
ethereal feeling that the whole night sky was shining through the window. His tabletop,
tilted 110o to face his bed, was glowing softly. It was strange that his
favorite pillow was almost inaudibly but repeatedly playing one of his mothers
favorite classics, Tchaikovskys Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. He had expected to be
roused up later in the morning by some strong vocals sung a cappella, as what the agent
was bringing him for several mornings now. It must be one of those times when the agent
was playfully glitchy and did not exactly do what it was supposed to do, or did Mother
messed around with my agent?
On the dimly glowing tabletop, below the small
headings on ownership copyrights, bibliographical information, addresses and all that
legal speak, Salm read the following:
Author: Hans Acadiane
Title: the edge of a continent
the edge of a continent is
a lonely place to lie in wait
for the closing of the distance
or the heaving
heaving of the heart
where white stallions
burdened by their mane
fling themselves upon the shore
fading fading like cirrus clouds
in supreme sacrifice
my heart clings to the sand
as the distance slips back
into the horizon
i see your face gently
gently breaking into a smile
and a fluttering like
the mane of white stallions
gasping rushing at the edge
of a continent
a lonely place a lovely place
to lie in wait for the stallions crests
race up to the shore
to kiss the land
and praise the sky
with playful wings or burdened chests
and the softly howling wind will tell
will tell of a lonely place
a lovely place
where your morning hair
is like the silky breeze
fondles for evermore
the heaving troughs the restless crests
the twisting clouds
of the edges
of a continent
Salm read and re-read and pondered on the poem.
By the time he decided that the poem carried just about the weight of longing and emotion
he wished to send to Anis, his curiosity was at a crescendo, How could such a haunting
poem be written? by whom and for whom? what motivated the author? would it be justice to
corrupt it into something else? Maybe, Salm thought, I could simply get Hans
Acadianes permission for me to send the poem to Anis, unchanged. Maybe, he can
even ask Hans Acadiane a brief explanation about the piece. That could provide him with
more insight as to how to handle Anis herself, who, he was certain, will know that the
poem is not his original and would probably ask him more questions than he could answer.
Hi, Hans, my name is Salm, I am 16
fired up his standard opening e-mail lines as he had done many times before when he was
meeting new people on the Net. I came across your poem, the edge of a
continent, and I was wondering if you can allow me to send this, unchanged and with
your byline, to a girl that I like very much. If you do not mind, I would also appreciate
if you can tell me more about the circumstances behind the writing of this poem. Id
like to be a friend, so please feel free to tell me about your self. I also hope you are
not going to charge me for the use of the poem, Im just a high schooler.
The reply was instant, and almost seemed to make that
same whoosh-and-thump sound that startled him at the Office Wall with his father the day
before, Hi Salm. It is nice to know that someone fancied my poem. I am honored. Not
that I write very well. But it can really get lonely out here.
The celeste had stopped playing and only the distant
waves were breaking the silence of a rising dawn. The chat service had turned on
Where are you, Hans? Who are you?
Out here, in the most forsaken
place you can imagine. I am a member of an international peacekeeping mission that tries
to disengage people from killing each other. The mission is presently posted in Angola.
Cool! Do you actually carry a gun?
No, not me. I am a linguist, and I
am mainly around to help offer an insight into the people we are dealing with and
sometimes help with the translation services. As in Kosovo several years back, I never did
carry a gun, although there were times when I wished I had one. I would however prefer any
day my mobile communicator over a blazing rifle. Aside from recording my diary, I could do
wonders with the communicator, programming, experimenting, juggling, you know, stuff like
trying to solve the conundrum of the Tower of Babel
Angola! Kosovo! You certainly are
traveling places. Like my father. But I thought these conflicts have already been
You dont seem to keep up
with your news readings. Of course these stories dont make the front pages anymore,
more so when people personalize their news bulletins and prefer to skim over these
stories. But really, this grim business is not going to end any time soon. Analyze any
history database about any region on Earth, this stuff has been going on for ages, in
cycles and trends, again and again and again. Like waves racing to the shore, they almost
always bring froth and scum. Even when, sometimes, they can be cleansing.
Have you engaged in actual combat?
How is it like?
Not often. Once in Kosovo, our
verification team was trapped in between the Serbian Army and a civilian community, which
was being pounded with tank guns. Without munitions, we felt so helpless. While some
people told me later that being unarmed was probably what saved us at that time, it
nevertheless did not save the unarmed men, women and children of the village. Can you
explain that to me? I
I still cannot fathom humanity.
That was a horrible, horrible period. All the while, in the words of Pablo Neruda: like an
eyelid held open hideously, we were just watching
Let us change topic. Who is she?
Who is she, who??
The lady you wrote the poem to.
O, she is my wife, Nely.
You write with such rhythm or
depth, or something.
You think so? When you go through
hell almost everyday and see the one-eyed monster through its iris and there is nowhere to
turn to except the sea and your gray matter, you can write with interlaced agony on almost
It does not strike me that your
poem was about agony.
It really is an attempt to connect
the small pockets in between the sea of agonies
What did your wife say about the
There was a brief delay in the reply.
Come to think of it, she did not
reply at all on that poem. According to my records, it was delivered to her e-mail inbox
shortly before last New Years day, that time of the year when people reflect on a
lot of things and, with more enormity, write things like a poem or a resolution or a
Thats over six months ago.
She must have said something.
I recall that was also the time
when the fighting was unusually heavy in Angola and our unit was, for several days,
marooned with our back to the sea. It seems that the closing of a year can also bring in
more resolve for people to go on a binge. Much like fierce salesmen haggling and
negotiating to meet or exceed their annual quota.
And your wife did not say anything
about the poem? Did she read it at all?
O yes, I got her return receipt,
properly time-stamped and authenticated, just moments before our mission boarded the mercy
flight bound for Cabinda. She had sent, on a separate packet, a New Years greeting
at about the same time, but that was it.
I hope my girl would be more
appreciative of your poem when I send it to her.
Try it. It is always a challenge
figuring out whats coming from the other end of a connection.
It is already 7 am. I promised
Mother to catch her some sea urchins for breakfast today. Ill get back to you later,
Hans. Thank you so much. Say, what time is it there with you now?
It is 07:01:1.15. What a nice day,
Funny, Salm wanted to type some more into the
chat channel, that we are on the same time zone, I thought you were in Africa.
But the channel was already disconnected. There lingered only the low static humming of
the desktop and the distant sound of waves outside Salms window.
Salm went back to his e-mail and quickly attached the
poem to his previously prepared message for Anis. Below the attachment icon, he added a
short note: Anis, I hope you like this poem. It is written by one Hans Acadiane for his
wife. Interesting fellow, I met him on the Net this morning. Like me, Hans is far away
from his loved one and misses her very much. This sincerely comes from the depth of our
hearts. Then with a click and a prayer, Salm sent the e-mail to Anis.
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