through the arch to the sea

Hilda Rix Nicholas
1914 Tangier, Morocco
oil on canvas and board
40cm x 50cm
Art Gallery of South Australia

I have known mornings like this before—the sky

high and pale; the light blanching the sides of stone


so that everything feels clear again. Even the market-place

smells of cold salt air, and not of fruits spoiling in the sun


I watch you with your mother. The women’s voices

are like the sea—quiet, murmuring, always there—and


I know you would run with me, through the arch

if you could. Our sandals slapping against the uneven


ground would be loud. Louder than the Call to Prayer.

I know you see me, even through all those coverings. 


Sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me going,

knowing the sea, through the arch is there; knowing


that you are there. And that on some mornings

even the way the light spreads on yellow tiles,


is a promise; a prayer.