On my morning stroll through the walled city, I meet the fez makers of Tunis in the souk. The shop is green and folksy, more a cupboard than a store, and an old-timer at a sort of sewing machine beckons me in. He shares a lengthy history, complete with vintage photographs from his grandfather and the National Geographic. He takes my hand and runs it across the thick shorn wool he’s spinning. The red chechia makers are beating the dead horse of a dying art, and when I leave, empty handed, the merchant is crushed. I can feel centuries wedged between us. The medinas of Tunisia were relentless—those old-world sales tactics could really put a female traveller on edge. I was stalked, followed, blockaded, and bullied if men’s first friendly charms failed to sell a trinket. I’d been sold stuff with ferocity in Mexico and Jerusalem, but this was different altogether. It left me wary and vigilant, ready to run. One stalked me for two hours, sitting himself at the café I escaped to, mocking me and my assumed wealth and shoving photos of his children under my coffee cup with his iPhone. He used his arms to block me from the exit of the city, right at the gate of my motel. I was almost afraid. That was the taste in my mouth that made me rush out of the shop without a fez. If I could turn back now, I would buy the damn hat. It was simple and beautiful. I can still see the old man’s nubby fingertips, his twisted knuckles, strong and sensual against the needles and the spools. The ancient cap makers survived the new millennium. Before the next century turns, they will be ghosts.
is from Toronto, Canada. Her prose poetry and small fictions are widely published in literary journals and anthologies, with recent or forthcoming appearances in Gyroscope, Free Flash Fiction, Bright Flash, Club Plum, Red Eft, and Indelible. A recent story won first place in a contest at MacQueen’s Quinterly, and her work has been nominated multiple times for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Her most recent of five poetry collections is Pretty Time Machine: Ekphrastic Prose Poems. Some of her works have been translated into Urdu. Lorette is founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review (established 2015), a journal devoted to literature inspired by art. She is also an award-winning visual artist, with collectors in 25 countries from Estonia to Qatar.
Visit her at: www.mixedupmedia.ca
Artist’s column in Good Food Revolution:
Wine and Art
A Review of Pretty Time Machine: Ekphrastic Prose Poems
by Jenene Ravesloot (4 February 2020) on Facebook
Fresh Strawberries, an ekphrastic prose poem in KYSO Flash
(Issue 11, Spring 2019), nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize