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The Ghosts of Jerash

May 14, 2008

jerash-theatre.jpgThey follow you around this place. Sometimes they silently appear from behind golden pillars with authentic fake coins to sell. Sometimes they rise out of the ground in the middle distance, shimmering among the rocks,  and silently beckon to you to come and look at some ancient wonder, their dark robes flapping in the hot, dry, oven baked  air.  Other times you look behind you in the tunnels of the amphitheatre and wait for their silent appearance from around the curve of the wall. You hear their steps but never see them, no matter how quickly or how often you spin around. These ones only touch your skin on the back of your head, never your eyes.

They whisper urgings in those tunnels, propelling you out into the stands so you can hear them running across the boards, hissing urgent cues to mute actors who have forgotten their lines. They sit on the edges of the wells and gaze their sorrow into sandy bottoms and coca cola cans. You see them sitting in the doorways and at the openings of laneways into their stone houses, all neatly arrayed around stone swept courtyards, so tidy you look for the broom and have half a sense they have only just walked away around the corner. Their silent traffic scares a cat up the stairs in front of you and you peer into a window to see who has startled it. Some child perhaps, too rough with their play. You walk in their company in the market and crowd with them in wonder around the fountain spouts, admiring the cool effect and wondering at the artificial engineering wellspring that plants an oasis in the desert. And you drift with their noisiness and frivolity back to the theatre where you hear mournful pipes lamenting and drums a-drumming, echoing their slow dirge off the stage and up the stone stairs into  empty ears and silent mouths and blind eyes but into alert spirits and watchful hearts. You check your back again. Just in case.

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