Art by Neha Khaitan
To make a Baklava the chef first stacks up the phyllo dough with nuts and
It’s four in the morning,
The club lights are flickering in the distant dark,
And you light a cigarette against the glass window of Tantura.
Partly-fitted partly-unbuttoned shirt,
Velvet trousers and hair that makes for a kinder Italian mafia,
Your languid figure struts across the pane casually talking with the boys,
As the smell of cinnamon fills up the air.
Controversially beautiful, nothing suits you lesser,
Than the badassery you so profoundly wear,
To shield your inner solitary wallflower,
Your pretence nonchalance contrasting with the pulsating eagerness of the
Inside Tantura, the singer breaks into Fado wooing with her Portuguese guitar,
The chef is layering the dough sheets, whisking it with soft butter brushes,
While I’m letting you have it,
The pensive act of your face and the calculated stealth of your eyes,
Cautiously meeting mine across Tantura.
The top layer of the Baklava is eight sheets deep,
When we pretend that Saudade doesn’t move us the way it really does,
You play your part; the ruby provocateur garnish of a man who doesn’t approach,
Sitting like a prize as the melancholic tunes of the guitar hover over us like
A girl lost in translation and fantastically wasted,
Legs crossed, back lifted, body lushly puckering underneath the silk shirt,
I am imagining the could-have-beens.
As the chef cuts the dough in squares with a sharp knife.
Your wanton cigarette puffs make circles that disappear into your thick hair,
As you grin at the inconspicuous theatrics of our mutual admiration,
We both know of the delicate indecencies clouding our minds,
As dawn mysteriously breaks somewhere outside the city of Lisbon.
The chef plates the Baklava onto a Turkish china,
Warm and soggy, seductively dipped in vanilla and honey,
Your lips part, my lips part,
Eager to meet the sweet aftertaste.
True to the essence of Saudade, this poem is best enjoyed with some Fado music
in the background. Saudade, or “the love that remains”, recollects feelings,
experiences or places that once evocative of pleasure, now trigger the senses and make one
live again. Fado, a music genre, truly means ‘destiny’ in Portuguese.
(Dedicated to the stranger my eyes met at Tantura restaurant on my last night in
Lisbon, circa 2018)
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