30
from A Palace of Pearls


There arrive fourteen hundred beasts

besides four hundred camels of the Sultan's

and a thousand mules hired for the occasion

at the rate of three mithqals a month

to convey six thousand blocks of stone great and small polished or rough

and in the building every third day eleven hundred burdens of lime and gypsum are used

four thousand columns travel from Rome

nineteen from France

the Emperor of Constantinople presents one hundred and forty

and one thousand and thirteen green and rose marble stones leave Carthage and Tunis

the remainder are native to Andalusia

as for instance the white marble which grows slowly in Tarragons and Almeria

and the streaked marble which enlivens Raya

with its uselessness and innocence

until it materializes into great wealth

discord and panic and so forth

it is a wonder

the wonders include two fountains with basins

such that when the Khalif receives the smaller one he fixes on it

twelve figures made in the arsenal of Cordoba

of red gold and pearls one like a lion one an antelope

another a crocodile

opposite an eagle and a dragon

a pigeon a falcon a peacock a hen a cock a kite and a vulture all drenched in jewels

together they shoot water out their mouths all praise to Allah

proper Arabic for The One and Only God

used by Christians Allaha in Aramaic

the mother tongue of Jesus pbuh

and Eloh-im in Hebrew

Allah does not have a plural or gender

Allah does not have any partner

He does not beget

nor was He begotten

behold The Creator and Sustainer of the universe

and the Extravagance of the Buildings for the Reception of the Court

the Barracks for the Troops

the Pleasure Gardens the Baths and So Forth nearly beyond measure

the total expense for hiring amounts to three thousand mithqals a month

for the animals alone

one can only imagine that the price for a single slave or prisoner

ordered in the name of Allah into the heat every day to lift

BEYOND WHAT IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE MUST BE AN ASTONISHING FIGURE


Jane Miller's book-length sequence, A Palace of Pearls, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2004. She is on the faculty of The University of Arizona and lives in Tucson.