from ULTRAZONE: TANGIER TOMBSTONE BLUES
A collaborative work-in-progress
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part in a weekly series of an excerpt from a new work by Francis Poole & Mark Terrill.
Everly Tweed awoke to the sound of the rain drumming on the skylight. It took him a while to get his bearings. Had he dreamed all that stuff about the crazy voices? And that bit about the kid and the monkey? He propped himself up on his elbows and looked around the room. No, he hadn’t dreamed that. And now it was all painfully real, along with the grim realization that the bleak longing now festering and gnawing somewhere at the center of his being was most likely the first signs of the return of the junk sickness, the insatiable need for another fix, which he mistakenly thought he’d finally left behind him. He also remembered there was some unfinished business involving Moustapha and a plan to exhume the body of Walter Harris. His thoughts about the matter pushed their way through the junk sickness and into the forefront of his consciousness. I must get that body out of Tangier, Tweed thought.
Why did he feel such a strong compulsion to dig up Walter Harris’ corpse? As Tweed became more awake the grip of Walter Harris’ spell on him grew stronger. He had heard the story of Walter Harris and his lover Pierre Rambeaux. It was part of Tangier lore. The two men had been separated in death by a thousand miles of water. Now with Harris’ ghostly power embedded in Tweed’s subconscious, his desire to relocate Harris’ body would not let him rest. It was like unfinished business on steroids. The urge was comparable to the obsession certain people have to attempt a difficult feat like swimming the English Channel or jumping the Snake River on a motorcycle. In Tweed’s muddled consciousness, logic or reason had no sway. The body of Harris must be moved and it is I who shall move it. With Moustapha’s willing or unwilling participation of course, Tweed thought. Hypnotism is all the leverage I will need to get Moustapha to start digging. The more difficult task will be moving the body out of Tangier.
Now more or less fully awake, Tweed picked at some fuzz on his tongue and smacked his lips. The H and sleep had left him with a dry throat and mouth. He stumbled through the strewn books and clothes into his tiny kitchen and took a long drink of water from a bottle of Sidi Harazem. Must find a quick fix to stabilize myself and then I can get started, he thought. Don’t want to cramp up or get the shakes.
Scoring from the Blue Messiah was out since Tweed knew he would be on his way to Casablanca by now. But there was an old drug smuggler who used to live at the top of the Kasbah who might have what he needed. His name was Abdul and he had been in and out of jail and prison several times both in Morocco and Germany where he had established trafficking connections. Tweed put on his black wool cape and beret and stepped out into the street. Several boys were noisily rolling metal hoops up and down the covered alley with long thin sticks. They hardly noticed Tweed as he passed. It took him a few minutes to get his bearings as he climbed the slippery steps leading upward toward the houses on the high cliff.
When he reached the street of houses that ran beside a low wall overlooking the strait he tried to remember which house was Abdul’s. Finally he stopped in front of a large wooden door covered with metal studs. It had a brass door knocker in the shape of a hand. Tweed struck it three times and an old woman leaned out of an upstairs window and stared down at him with a frown. The rain dripped in his face. There was a rustling sound from within and the huge door creaked open slightly. A single yellow eye peered out from the pitch blackness within. “Abdul, is that you?” After a pause he heard a deep, raspy voice say, “Ah yes, my friend, come in.” Tweed entered the larger of two rooms which were divided by a Moroccan blanket that served as a door. Lit by a single candle in a filigreed brass lamp, the room he was standing in was almost bare except for piles of cushions along all four walls. The floor was covered with old, damp smelling carpets which overlapped each other. Abdul was short and stocky and had a scraggly salt and pepper beard. He was wearing a dark burnoose and a black stocking cap. “Please come and sit. I have just now gotten up. Ow wow wow. What a deep sleep I had. Would you like some tea?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Tweed hadn’t seen Abdul in years but his welcoming manner and gentle hospitality were still the same. He sat down near the lamp and Abdul went about making the tea using a small gas camp stove. The shadows from the lamp were dancing off the walls and ceiling creating a bizarre, fascinating light show.
As he appeared with the tray of tea glasses Abdul said, “I have just returned from Germany. Ow wow wow. Is crazy to do business in this time. Everybody steal from everybody. The Customs take my passport, put me in airport jail and not let me in the country for two days. Ow wow wow. But now I am back in Tangier, Allah be praised. Business finished.”
As they sat having tea Tweed brought up the matter of needing to score a quick fix.
“I just need a little, a few day’s worth to get me by.”
“Yes Tweed, my friend. I understand. If you have honey you don’t need money. Abdul have something for you. You will like very much, insha’Allah.”
Abdul walked into the other room and soon returned with a cat under one arm and a pocket-sized oil lamp. It looked like a miniature Alladin’s lamp decorated with several precious stones.
“Here is what you need. No regular honey. This is Huile d’Djinn, Oil of the Djinn. One drop on your tongue and ow wow wow. Here, I put a drop in your tea.” Abdul filled Tweed’s tea glass and added a drop from the lamp. Tweed thirstily took several long sips and leaned back on the cushions.
After about five minutes Tweed suddenly jumped to his feet with excitement. His H Jones had dissipated and he was feeling a little disoriented. Standing there gazing at the lamplight, the room seemed to be floating on a slow undulating wave. His face felt warm and he took off his coat. Abdul’s face was glowing and his yellow eyes stared back inquisitively. Tweed felt as though he had just had a so-called Atom Bomb, or hashish mixed with heroin. But this was much mellower.
“I feel really high, Abdul. It’s weird. Like I’ve just stepped off a cliff.”
“Ah, that is the Oil from the Djinn. You like?”
“Like? Like? Like what is the meaning of like? Rather what is the meaning of meaning?”
Tweed slowly sat down and let the waves of the Djinn’s Oil wash over and through him. Two hours passed while Tweed lay on the cushions gazing at the candle light visions of paradise dancing off the ceiling and walls. The visions were of smiling faces and Buddha-like beings that radiated a sense of peace and well being. Meanwhile Abdul, who had taken two drops of Djinn Oil in his own tea, went about feeding his cat, tidying up the other room and doing other domestic chores while humming a Farid el Atrash tune.
When he was finished with his chores Abdul sat down on a cushion at Tweed’s head and softly stroked the cat which had curled up in a ball on his lap. Tweed tilted his head, looked at Abdul’s upside down visage and sighed deeply.
“Well Abdul, I don’t believe I can stand up.”
“Oh my friend Tweed, you can stand up anytime you want. No problem. The Oil from the Djinn, she will help you do anything. If you do not offend her.”
“How could I offend her?”
“By having evil thoughts while you are in her embrace.”
“Well thanks for the warning but I think I’ll just lie here. Do you mind if I talk?”
“You are my guest. Do as you like. My cat will also listen.”
“Abdul, I was on my way to buy a carpet when I stopped by your house. I need a carpet to use in transporting some, uh, contraband.”
“What kind of contraband?”
“Let’s just say it’s an old, rather large Moroccan artifact. I need to get it out of Tangier and safely delivered to Malta without any hassles.”
Abdul looked puzzled. “How would a carpet help?”
“Well, I planned to wrap the artifact in the carpet and then try to…” Abdul cut him off. “What you are planning is no good. The Customs knows all these tricks. Smuggling things by putting them in Moroccan goods like a tourist is no good. The dogs would find it or some djinn-like machine which can see through anything. But if you had a special carpet, maybe. I only have one such carpet that might do what you need.”
“May I see it then?”
“Of course. It is one of the carpets in this room. But I have forgotten which one. I bought it some years ago at a village market in Toubkal. Perhaps if the carpet is willing I can lend it to you. Wait here and I will show you.” With that Abdul disappeared into the adjoining room. Tweed slumped back against the cushions wondering if it might not be a good idea to leave. The dosing of his tea had made him regard Abdul with some suspicion and a little fear. Realizing those were possibly evil thoughts, Tweed focused again on the patterns of light on the walls.
Abdul returned a few minutes later with a red velvet bag with gold drawstrings. He reached inside and pulled out a flat stone disc which had some strange writing carved on it. Then he spoke seven words—words in a language Tweed did not recognize. There followed a silence so still that you could hear the cat breathing. Suddenly one of the carpets began to rise. It was an ancient-looking maroon flat weave with golden abstract bird figures around the edges. Abdul’s cat growled deeply, then jumped up and darted out of sight. The carpet continued rising until it hovered a good three feet off the floor. Tweed’s heart began to palpitate as he gasped with surprise and disbelief.
“What is this?” he half cried.
Abdul held out his hands, turned his head slowly towards Tweed and mellifluously said, “C’est un tapis magique!”
At that same moment, just a few streets away, Just-call-me-Ishmael was preparing to leave his small apartment and walk over the hill to the Fez Market for his usual afternoon shopping. First he needed to replenish his cash supply, but when he opened the small wall safe hidden behind a painting by Ahmed Yacoubi in his bedroom, he realized that his cash funds were getting low again. That meant he would have to sell another painting or drawing from his secret depot in the old villa he’d bought up on the Old Mountain many years back. The villa was empty but carefully watched over by a well-armed groundskeeper with several large Doberman Pinschers who lived in a caretaker’s cottage on the property, behind high stone walls topped with shards of jagged glass embedded into the cement.
Just-call-me-Ishmael’s decision to live in a modest apartment in the medina instead of the large luxurious villa was part of the rigorous wall of deception that he’d built up around him since he’d arrived in Tangier many years ago. His shabby appearance, his constant mooching for drinks in the various bars and cafés, his perpetual borrowing of money and complaints about living in near poverty were all part of a clever ruse.
Securely locked away in his villa on the Old Mountain was a huge convolute of well over 1,400 paintings and drawings, carefully stored in hermetically sealed crates and cabinets, consisting primarily of works by the foremost Impressionists and Expressionists, as well as many fine exponents of modern art as well older works by various old masters. Whenever Just-call-me-Ishmael needed money, he would select a painting by Monet or Chagall, or a print by Max Beckman or Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, and arrange for its sale at a discrete auction house in Switzerland. The works of art were originally collected by the Nazis in Germany, either by way of confiscation from museums as so-called degenerate art (“Entartete Kunst”), or bought from Jews fleeing Germany who were desperately in need of money to finance their flight. Near the end of the war, when the Nazis were struggling to finance the omnivorous war machine, they decided to sell off much of this art to various dealers in Europe and America. Deals were made by various middle-men with galleries and collectors and the works were secretly shipped out of Germany in exchange for large sums of much needed cash or even gold.
One of these middle-men, chosen by Hitler himself, was Dr. Konrad Gassenhauer, formerly an art historian, gallery owner and collector, albeit with a less-than 100% pure Aryan background. This was overlooked by Hitler in light of Dr. Gassenhauer’s highly esteemed expertise, especially concerning the French Impressionists and German Expressionists. Having amassed an incredibly impressive collection of works which were originally intended for Hitler’s private “Führer Museum,” Dr. Gassenhauer was eventually appointed with the task of shipping some 1,500 of these works of art from Lisbon, Portugal, to Boston, Massachusetts, where they would then be sold off.
Dr. Gassenhauer supervised the packing of the artworks, which were disguised and listed as “agricultural machinery,” and accompanied them on the long dangerous train trip from Berlin to Lisbon. Once in Lisbon, Dr. Gassenhauer hired a ship, the Rio Tejo, oversaw the loading of the valuable cargo (the true contents of which were known only to him), and sailed out of Lisbon on a dark rainy night, destined for Boston, where a small group of dealers and collectors were waiting with keen anticipation. They waited and waited but the Rio Tejo never arrived, nor was it ever heard from again.
Two days out of Lisbon, Dr. Gassenhauer slipped unnoticed into the galley of the Rio Tejo and put cyanide in all the food that was planned for that day’s menu, and thus poisoned and killed the entire crew. Then, according to the plan he’d worked out in Lisbon, a fishing trawler based in the nearby Azores came alongside the Rio Tejo and the crates of “agricultural machinery” were offloaded onto the trawler, which then set course for Lisbon, after Dr. Gassenhauer had opened the seacocks in the engine room of the Rio Tejo and sent it to the bottom of the Atlantic, complete with the poisoned crew and all incriminating evidence. Back in Lisbon, Dr. Gassenhauer had the crates loaded into a warehouse and paid off the crew of the trawler. That night, on the way back to the Azores, there was a huge explosion onboard, which killed the crew and sunk the trawler, also never to be seen again.
Dr. Gassenhauer took a room in the Hotel Braganca, just off the Cais do Sodre in Lisbon, and eventually found the perfect hiding place for his treasure in an old automotive workshop which he bought and paid for in cash under a fake name, located in a quiet side street near the harbor only a twenty-minute walk from the Hotel Braganca. The shop was only accessible by way of a large steel door which could be rolled up or down and locked securely. Cars or trucks could be driven into the garage, the door rolled down, and the loading and unloading of the artworks could be done in total secrecy. Here Dr. Gassenhauer could hang his favorite paintings on the walls of the garage and admire them, like a private gallery or museum all his own. Total secrecy and absolute discretion were of the utmost importance for his survival, and Dr. Gassenhauer stayed on in the Hotel Braganca under another fake name, living a life of total anonymity.
When the war ended in 1945 Dr. Gassenhauer had become so enamored of Lisbon and his new life that he continued on staying in the Hotel Braganca, while discretely dealing with galleries and collectors in Lisbon and elsewhere, selling off the paintings from his secret collection that were the least valuable, while buying new works to expand his collection. None of his family had survived the war and Dr. Gassenhauer lived quietly and alone but comfortably for many years, an eccentric recluse and a lover of the arts, who warded off occasional bouts of loneliness by engaging the various ladies of the night who worked the seaman’s bars and brothels just below the windows of his hotel in the Rua de S. Paulo.
Shortly after the so-called “Carnation Revolution” in Portugal in 1974, Just-call-me-Ishmael arrived in Lisbon for the very first time, working as an oiler on a grain ship delivering a load of wheat from the USA. The grain ship was an old rusty hulk that should have been scrapped long ago, and was hardly even sea-worthy anymore. In Lisbon the ship had to undergo extensive repairs on the boiler and was laid up for more than six weeks, during which the crew was put ashore in various hotels. Just-call-me-Ishmael had no desire to be lodged in a hotel with all the same drunken idiots he’d been cooped up with on the ship for the last few months, and took it upon himself to find another hotel and eventually wound up in the Hotel Braganca, due to its proximity to the harbor, the red light district and the train station at Cais do Sodre.
Every morning at breakfast in the hotel dining room Just-call-me-Ishmael saw an old man, apparently well into his eighties, eating alone at a table in the corner. The old man spoke English with a strong German accent. One evening Just-call-me-Ishmael saw the old man in the Texas Bar, just around the corner from the Hotel Braganca, and started up a conversation with him. Dr. Gassenhauer, who introduced himself merely as Konrad, was quite cool and distanced at first, but gradually warmed up as the night wore on and the drinks continued to flow. During the weeks that followed, they met often, either in the hotel or the Texas Bar, and sometimes had dinner or went to a Fado bar to enjoy a night of wine, tapas and music. Sometimes they would take the train out to Estoril to visit the casino, or even further out to Cascais to walk along the beach and perhaps dine at one of the many seafood restaurants near the harbor. The son of an artist, Just-call-me-Ishmael had a good working knowledge of art, which became the common denominator in all conversations with Dr. Gassenhauer.
One rainy night just before the crew of the grain ship was about to move back on board in preparation for the return trip to the USA, Just-call-me-Ishmael and Dr. Gassenhauer were walking down the Rua do Alecrim on their way back to the hotel when a taxi that was coming down the hill way too fast suddenly lost control on the wet streetcar tracks and went flying up over the curb and onto the sidewalk. Just-call-me-Ishmael managed to jump out of the way, but the taxi caught Dr. Gassenhauer dead on and crushed him against the wall of a building. The taxi driver was knocked out and lay unconscious in the front seat, and Just-call-me-Ishmael managed to drag Dr. Gassenhauer out from under the taxi and laid him out on the sidewalk. Someone called the police and an ambulance and while they waited, Dr. Gassenhauer quickly whispered the story of the Nazi Raubkunst, how it came into his hands, and where it was now. With his last dying effort, Dr. Gassenhauer reached into his pocket and took out a key and pressed it into Just-call-me-Ishmael’s hand. “It’s yours now,” Dr. Gassenhauer said with his last breath, “Do with it what you like. Sell it and live like a king, or donate it to a museum so others can enjoy it, or keep it for yourself and marvel at the sheer beauty of so many great works of art.” And with those last words, Dr. Gassenhauer slumped against the sidewalk and was gone. Just-call-me-Ishmael said nothing to the police when they arrived, other than he only knew the old man as a fellow guest in the Hotel Braganca and didn’t even know his last name.
The first thing next morning Just-call-me-Ishmael located the auto workshop and unlocked the door and slipped inside and quickly rolled the big steel door shut behind him. He spent the entire morning going through the crates of art, overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and quality of all that he saw there. After viewing the entire contents of the collection, he sat down on a crate and tried to gather his thoughts. The collection must have been worth a fortune. And now it was his. He would never have to work on a ship again. In fact, he would never have to work again at all. Just-call-me-Ishmael could not believe the incredible turn of his luck.
When the grain ship sailed out of Lisbon for the USA, Just-call-me-Ishmael was not on board. He’d never even gone back to the ship to get any of his meager belongings or to explain his absence. Through a shipping agency in Lisbon he arranged for the crates of agricultural machinery to be shipped to Tangier, and went on board the small coastal freighter to accompany his new property on the voyage. Once in Tangier, he greased the necessary official palms and paid the requisite baksheesh to get his crates through customs and safely stored in a warehouse without anyone ever questioning the contents. Soon after he located and bought the villa on the Old Mountain, and having installed the armed groundskeeper and maximizing the security of the place, he transferred the crates there and began his new life. He invented the story about the acquisition of his name, spread a few rumors about his alleged dubious past, and gradually became another member the colorful cast of characters that made up the population of Tangier, albeit with a very valuable secret.
Just-call-me-Ishmael called for a taxi to take him up to the villa, and while he waited, he wondered which painting or drawing he could afford to part with. After all these years he had developed almost personal emotional relationships with each and every work of art.
When Moustapha woke up from his siesta, he heard the rain pattering on the tin roof of the watchman’s shack at the gate of the cemetery. As he stepped outside and looked up into the dark gray sky, he heard the sound of a large vehicle pulling up to the gate. Moustapha turned and saw the doors of a bus opening and a group of tourists descending onto the sidewalk, some with umbrellas, and others decked out in waxed cotton jackets and waterproof hats. He could hear them talking as they came in through the gate and realized they were English tourists. Only English tourists would take a guided tour outside in the rain.
Moustapha sighed and went back into the shack and exchanged his straw hat for a red fez and prepared to slip into his role as official tour guide. It wasn’t something he particularly enjoyed doing, but it was expected of him by Mr. McClean and sometimes a sizeable amount of cash would come his way in the form of tips. But not from the English, who were terrible tippers. Not as bad as the Russians, but quite stingy compared to the generosity of the Americans or even the Japanese.
Moustapha went out and welcomed the tourists, giving his usual thumbnail history of the Anglican Church and the cemetery, then led them to the grave of Emily Keene, which was usually the first grave the English wanted to see. Emily Keene, a British humanitarian born in 1849, allegedly introduced the cholera vaccine to Morocco. She married the Sharif of Wazzan, a local religious leader, and died in 1944. Another popular grave among the English was that of Sir Harry Aubry de Vere Maclean, born in Scotland in 1849 (no relation to Rector McClean). Maclean’s illustrious military career included a stint in Canada fighting the Fenians, and later in Morocco where he became an army instructor for the Sultan Mulai Hassan. He gained the confidence of the Sultan of Morocco and his successor, Moulay Abdelaziz, and fought against various warring tribes in Morocco. He was once kidnapped and held for ransom, was a visitor to the forbidden city of Tafilalt, and eventually became a commander of the Sultan of Morocco’s army, dying in 1920.
Moustapha then showed them the graves of Paul Lund, Walter Harris, and Commander Roy Howell RN, husband of Alexandria-born Claire de Menasce whose daughter, Claude-Marie Vincendon, was the third wife of Lawrence Durrell. The rain was still coming down, and despite the hearty demeanor of the appropriately attired English, Moustapha sensed a gradual diminishing of interest among their ranks. He was considering bringing the tour to an end when someone asked about the grave of Joseph Dean, former proprietor of the quasi-legendary Dean’s Bar.
The ghosts of Burroughs, Dean, and Brunhilde Reinhart had all been watching the tour as it proceeded through the cemetery, with somewhat bemused interest. The falling rain went right through the ghosts without getting them wet, so there was no discomfort on their part. As Moustapha and the group of tourists approached the grave of Walter Harris, the other ghosts noticed his ghost sitting on the grave, and saw how the ghost got up and went and hid behind a nearby tombstone.
“Hey, look, isn’t that the ghost of Walter Harris?” Burroughs asked.
“It certainly is,” said Dean.
“So what’s he hiding from if he’s a ghost? No one can see us, right?”
“Well, yes and no. If your spiritual account is settled and there’s no unfinished business or reason to haunt anyone, then your ghost will be invisible to all. On the other hand, if there are unresolved issues at hand concerning revenge, jealousy, injustice, or even some sort of unhappiness with your ghostly situation, you will be at times visible, as that is the primary way of the dead communicating with the living. The thing is, you don’t always have control as to when your ghost is visible or not. The other thing is, which makes it all even more complicated, is that some people are able to see ghosts and others are not. That appears to depend entirely upon the psychic constitution of the person who is confronted by the ghost.”
Burroughs and Brunhilde looked at each other. “Wow,” said Brunhilde. “Then considering our past lives, we’re probably both visible as well sometimes.”
“You mean because of me shooting my wife, Joan?”
“Yes, and since I never even saw who it was who murdered me, we’re talking about some very unresolved issues.”
“Hmm,” said Burroughs, pushing his glasses back up on his nose and scratching his left ear slowly and thoughtfully. “So the Hombre Invisible isn’t always as invisible as he thought.”
Just then Moustapha and the tourists were approaching the grave of Joseph Dean, not far from where the three ghosts were sitting.
“You two better hide behind that tombstone over there, just in case,” Dean said.
Burroughs and Brunhilde went over and ducked behind a large marble tombstone and watched as Moustapha stopped directly in front of Dean’s grave and turned around and began to tell the story of Dean and his bar and its role in the history of Tangier.
As Moustapha was talking he noticed that some of the tourists were looking past him at the grave with a strange look on their faces. Moustapha turned around and looked down and saw that the rain had dissolved the paint on the papier-mâché tombstone and was starting to melt the papier-mâché. The glistening wet pages of newspapers like El Pais and Le Soir Echos could be clearly seen as the gooey mass of papier-mâché began to form a soggy, soup-like mess in the impression where the marble tombstone of Joseph Dean had once laid.
“Holy shit,” Burroughs said. “Old Moustapha’s in trouble now.”
“I guess that wasn’t such a smart idea after all,” said Brunhilde.
Dean shook his head and smiled.
“I’ve got an idea,” Burroughs said. “Let’s all head up to the Old Mountain and pay Aicha a little unexpected visit, maybe rattle her cage a bit.”
Everly Tweed watched intently as the carpet floated toward the door then stopped and moved left toward the wall. Though the light was dim, Tweed could easily see that there were no wires suspending the carpet. Abdul held his hands out and repeated several more strange words and the carpet floated towards him and began to descend until it was once again lying on top of the other carpets which covered the floor. The effects of the Djinn Oil on Tweed were beginning to lessen. He got up from the cushions, walked over and stood on the carpet. “If this is a real magic carpet, then am I supposed to sit on it and fly off like Sabu in The Thief of Baghdad?”
“Señor Tweed, of course the carpet is not from this time. It is très vieux. Today no one would believe a carpet can fly through the air like a bird.” Abdul chuckled softly and called his cat, Sophia. She peeked from around a corner of the blanket separating the two rooms and surveyed the scene before slowly tiptoeing toward Abdul.
“Then how will the carpet be useful for my purpose?” asked Tweed.
“Oh I will need time to better understand its magic myself,” said Abdul. “But I believe this is the best way for you to move the…what was it?”
Tweed felt that perhaps the best way of getting Abdul’s further help was to tell him the truth.
“It’s a body. A body buried long ago in the St. Andrew’s Cemetery.”
The mischievous smile disappeared from Abdul’s face.
“Ah, St. Andrew’s mesquita. Then it must be the body of a Nazrani. It is forbidden to disturb a Muslim grave…but a Nazrani; that is different. It is not unusual for Europeans to send their dead home so that they can find peace. Tangier is sometimes as difficult for dead Nazranis as it is for live ones. But, ow wow wow, moving a body is not easy and much baksheesh must be paid to many. It is better what my carpet can do.”
“And how exactly will that work?” asked Tweed.
“First you dig up the body. Then you place the body on the carpet, say the invocation, and voila, she’s disappear from Tangier. But first I must have time to bring full magical power to the carpet. Remember, an unridden carpet is like an unplayed oud which is like an unloved woman. You must be gentle with her. It requires a delicate touch and much patience.”
It was getting late and Tweed was quickly reviewing in his mind what he had witnessed in Abdul’s apartment. Maybe Abdul pulled some magic show trick on me while was I was stoned, Tweed thought. Then again perhaps it is possible that such carpets exist or used to. Kazim would probably know. I’ll have to ask him. Tweed then rose, put on his cape and prepared to leave.
“More tea, Señor Tweed?”
“No thank you, Abdul. I have to go. When do you think the carpet will be ready for me to use?”
“Two, maybe three days. Then you come back and I will show you and we will discuss payment.”
“And the Djinn Oil? I would like to buy some.”
“No problem,” said Abdul, reaching into his djellaba. “Here is a small vial you can have. Enough for three maybe four days. You pay me when you return.”
“Shukran bezzef, Abdul. I will see you in three days.”
“Insha’Allah, my friend Tweed.”
Abdul opened the door and looked up and down the narrow street. Then Tweed shook his hand, said “Goodbye,” and stepped out into the gray afternoon. It was still raining and the rivulets of water running down the Rue du Kasbah made a gurgling sound. As Tweed walked he thought again about what he had seen and began to speculate.
During his time as a practicing hypnotist in London, Everly Tweed had on occasion performed a stage act in several variety and magic shows. He was familiar with charlatans who plied their trade by selling “snake oil” to a gullible public. And he had learned the secrets behind a few of the more difficult magic acts. There was the “Box of Death,” where a comely magician’s assistant would be sawed in half. There was the “Indian Rope Trick,” and there was the “Floating Body,” where a lady lying on a table would be covered by a silk cloth, then rise and float in mid-air. After walking around the floating form and passing a cane above and below it, the magician would pull the cloth away revealing that the assistant had vanished. Most of these tricks were done with mirrors and diversion. Granted, Tweed had never seen a flying carpet until today, but he was skeptical. Maybe Abdul and the Djinn Oil had combined to trick him. But why? At least he had gotten a few days worth of the Djinn Oil which would hopefully last until the Blue Messiah returned from Casablanca.
I wonder what Kazim knows about smuggling or magic carpets, Tweed thought. Even if he had only heard about them through folk tales, it might be good to talk to him. And he may have other advice that could help me with my mission.
The Café Triangle was not far out of his way so he headed there hoping to find Kazim. When he arrived at the café, the door was closed and locked. Very unusual, Tweed thought, even during the lazy mid-afternoon. Typically there would be several men inside smoking kif, drinking tea and watching TV. Tweed was about to turn away when he heard “Pssst, pssst.” He looked around and saw a young street urchin approaching. “Café is closed. What you want mister? You want hotel? You want restaurant? You want kif, whores?” The boy was wearing a t-shirt with a graphic of two vultures on it.
“I don’t want anything. I live here.”
“You not live in this place. This is Triangle Café.”
“No, I live in the medina and I am looking for someone.”
“Oh, you want Paul Bowles. No problem. I take you to his house.”
“I happen to know that Paul Bowles is dead so if I were looking for Paul Bowles I would be looking for a ghost!” said Tweed, half-shouting. Just then the door to the Café Triangle opened and there stood Kazim. He glanced sternly at the boy and said, “Imshi, Imshi,” and the boy ran off down the street toward the port.
“Salaam alaikum. Good afternoon Señor Tweed. How are you? Please come in.”
Tweed entered the café and Kazim closed the door behind him. Then he led Tweed to a table. The place was empty except for three waiters who were washing tea glasses, cleaning the floor and straightening up.
“A crazy night,” said Kazim. “The café will open maybe soon. Please would you like some tea?”
“Yes, thank you,” said Tweed. “I don’t think I have had such a crazy night in years. The musicians were fantastic.”
“I saw you, Señor Tweed. You made everyone go so wild. It was like a moussem. All people dancing and shouting.”
“I hardly remember what happened, Kazim. I guess I got a little carried away. Today I came by the café because I wanted to speak to you about an urgent matter I am dealing with. I need to get something out of Tangier but I can’t ship it through the post, or by Fed Ex or other channels. And customs would be a real problem.”
Kazim sat back in his chair, paused as if recalling a pleasant memory, and then began speaking. “When I was young and lived in the Rif near Ketama, smuggling was an art. We would use camels in those days to take hashish down to the coast near Sebta. The thick camel hair would be cut away and packages of hashish were glued to the animal’s sides. The camel fur was then replaced to hide the drugs. Once the camels reached the coast the packages would be unloaded and placed in water-tight bags and moved onto boats for the crossing to Spain. The bags would be weighed down with blocks of salt. If the boats were challenged, we would toss the bags overboard where the bags would sink. Then the salt would dissolve and a day or two later the bags would rise to the surface where they could be picked up. Those were good times. Plenty of hashish, plenty of money… Hamdoulah!”
“That’s a great story Kazim. But I’m not planning to smuggle drugs. I need to move a rather large artifact from Tangier to Malta without it being discovered. Tell me, have you ever heard stories about magic carpets in Morocco? Someone told me they existed and that a magic carpet would be the safest way for me to transport contraband out of Tangier.”
“Hah,” said Kazim. “Yes, there were tapis magique long ago. They were brought from Baghdad and Cairo across the deserts to Timbuktu and then to Marrakech. The carpets were used by Sultans and sorcerers to fly from city to city. But all that is past. No magic carpets have been seen since 1912 and the French Protectorate. Is finished I think.”
“So it is possible that they still exist,” said Tweed.
“Anything is possible my friend. God is great.”
A waiter appeared with a tray of tea glasses and some Gazelle Horn pastries.
“After we have tea, why don’t you come to my house? My maid is cooking a nice couscous and you can be my guest for dinner. After the meal we can discuss your problem and perhaps Kazim can find a solution.”
Meanwhile, Aicha was up in her bedroom, cleaning and reloading the pearl-handled derringer while listening to the rain rasping against the window. Not that the derringer would protect her from ghosts or magic or giant centipedes, but it did make her feel somewhat more secure. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a car stopping in the street and she got up and went over to look out the window. A taxi was parked at the front gate of the villa next door, the empty one with the guard and the watchdogs. She saw Just-call-me-Ishmael get out of the taxi and ring the buzzer of the front gate, which was opened by the guard. Just-call-me-Ishmael went in through the gate, spoke briefly with the guard, and then went up the stairs of the villa, typed a code into the keypad on the wall next to the door, and stepped inside.
For years Aicha had seen Just-call-me-Ishmael coming and going from the empty villa, without ever being able to discern what business he had there. Now and again he would leave the villa with a large, flat package under his arm, and sometimes he arrived with a similar package, but she had never seen anyone else on the grounds except for the guard and the watchdogs. She had often tried to envision the interior of the villa but either the walls were too thick or the electronic security system thwarted all her efforts.
Aicha put her fingers to her temples and closed her eyes, concentrating on her powers, trying yet again to obtain some sort of imagery of the interior of the villa. But it was like changing the channels on a TV with bad reception; just snowy, grainy nothingness. She wondered if perhaps her powers were beginning to finally fail her in her old age. Sometimes they were there, sometimes they weren’t, but they were no longer reliable. When she opened her eyes again, her attention was caught by something below in her garden. Standing there in a circle around the fishpond, looking down and discussing something, were the ghosts of William Burroughs, Joseph Dean and Brunhilde Reinhart.
An uncontrolled gasp escaped from Aicha’s dry lips and she stepped back from the window. She quickly and silently recited the Verse of the Throne and the last three chapters of the Qur’an. Three djinns, or ghosts, or whatever they were, visible in the middle of the day. What powers were at work here? And what were they doing in her garden? She went over to the table and picked up the derringer and weighed it in her hand. Then she shook her head, laughed at her own stupidity, and placed the derringer back on the table. She opened the inlaid wooden box which was sitting on the table and quickly put together a concoction of various dried herbs, a tiger claw, a piece of dried bat wing, a falcon beak, a tooth stolen from the tomb of El Aroussi, the dried stinger of an albino scorpion, and a pinch of her own pubic hairs as well as clump of dried menstrual blood. She put all these items in a small leather pouch with long drawstrings which she then hung around her neck, hoping that would provide sufficient protection.
When Aicha went back over to the window and looked down into the garden, the three ghosts were gone. As she was standing there wondering if she had actually seen the three ghosts or not, she heard a noise in the hallway outside of her bedroom. She saw the door knob turning and the door opened and in glided the ghosts of Burroughs, Dean and Brunhilde.
“Surprise, surprise,” drawled Burroughs flatly. “You didn’t know you were expecting company, eh? Well, here we are.”
Aicha clutched the pouch around her neck and took a few steps backward.
“If you think that little bag of toad dicks, ear wax, belly-button lint and monkey shit is going to save your sorry ass then you’ve got another think coming,” Burroughs said. “Fortunately I can’t vouch as to your abilities as a whore, but I know for a fact that as a witch or sorceress you never even made it out of the Little League.”
“What do you want from me?” Aicha asked.
“Verdammte Scheisse,” Brunhilde exclaimed, pointing at a large painting of a view of Marseilles hanging over the bed. “That’s one of my paintings that were stolen from my villa after I was murdered.”
“Ah, the plot thickens,” said Dean.
“So where did you get that painting?” Brunhilde asked Aicha.
“I inherited it from Lady Ofelia, like everything else you see here.”
“You’re lying. Lady Ofelia died two years before I was murdered. That painting was still hanging in my studio then.”
“And what about my tombstone?” Dean asked. “Did you inherit that as well?”
“That was given to me by Moustapha, the watchman.”
“Don’t try to put the blame on poor Moustapha. He’s in enough trouble as it is. In fact, if you don’t get my tombstone back where it belongs real soon, Moustapha will probably lose his job.”
“That’s none of my business,” Aicha said defiantly.
Burroughs stepped over to the table where the derringer and the box of bullets were lying next to a rag and a bottle of gun oil. “Well, would you look at that,” Burroughs said, picking up the derringer. “I used to have a little number like this when I lived in Mexico City. Had to sell it to help finance the first trip I made to look for yagé. Basically a worthless toy. You’d be lucky if you could hit a barn door at twenty paces. But maybe this one is different. Dean, would you bring me a glass from the bathroom please?”
Dean went into the bathroom and came back out with a water glass. “What should I do with it?” Dean asked.
Burroughs motioned toward Aicha with the derringer. “See if you can balance that glass on her head.”
Dean and Brunhilde exchanged a quick knowing look.
Dean managed to balance the glass on the top of Aicha’s head and took a few steps back.
“So, Aicha,” Burroughs said, sighting along the tiny barrel of the pearl-handled derringer. “I assume you’re familiar with the story of William Tell?”
The rain had stopped, the clouds were parting and the afternoon light was casting bent and crooked shadows through the alleys of the medina as Kazim and Tweed made their way to Kazim’s house. The shadows reminded Tweed of Arabic calligraphy which he had taught himself during his years in Tangier. But if there was a message in the shadow writing, Tweed couldn’t make it out. When they reached Kazim’s front door Kazim turned to Tweed and said, “Paul and Jane Bowles used to live in that house just up the street. Very small and with rats. The rats lived in the sewers and came up through the squatter hole. Brion Gysin also lived there with Paul for a time. I think he got rid of the rats. Gysin was un gran amigo. He gave me one of his Dream Machines. Maybe I will show you.”
Kazim pulled out an ancient looking skeleton key and unlocked the large, heavily studded front door. He pushed the door open and bid Tweed to step inside, then closed the door behind them. Tweed found that they were standing in a small dark entryway which was closed off by another door. Kazim pressed a buzzer and a woman’s voice could be heard coming from the other side. There was a click and the second door swung open. They entered a small enclosed garden with a fountain in the middle. The garden walk was set with mosaics in Moroccan tile and adorned with various plants; hibiscus, dwarf palms, datura, pots of geraniums, and even a small banana tree. Kazim’s maid and cook, Habiba, greeted Kazim and then disappeared into the house. She was wearing an embroidered caftan, a red hijab, and there was a flirtatious gleam in her green eyes.
“We are having a special tagine this evening,” said Kazim. “Made with tofu, lamb, cabbage, and golden hashish powder.” Tweed could smell the rich aroma of spices and he was getting hungry.
“Let’s go into the salon, Señor Tweed, and be comfortable. You can remove your shoes here in the garden.” Tweed saw a basket containing several pairs of worn Moroccan slippers by the door to the salon. He slipped off his shoes and put on a pair before going inside. The salon was large for a medina house and had a plaster, hand-carved Moorish style ceiling. The room was painted a red, metal-flake color which sparkled in the dim light. One wall was covered with a woven wool Bedouin tapestry in the “keyhole” or Moorish arch design. On another wall hung several framed Van Gogh prints, including his Sunflowers. In the center was a large velvet painting of Jimi Hendrix seated atop a Mehara camel with his Fender Strat slung over his shoulder. At one end of the room there was a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with books, many of which were bound in leather. The salon was furnished with a Papasan Chair, several leather poufs, and a long banquette covered in lambskins. In front of the banquette was a round wooden table with geometric inlays. On the table there was a turquoise ceramic vase which held narcissus, and a marble cubist style sculpture of a man’s head. A T. Rex album was playing through small speakers inset in the walls.
Tweed walked over to the bookcase and saw there were many rare, antique, leather-bound books in Arabic. They included works by Ibn Batouta, the great Moroccan explorer, and other works by Arabic scholars, philosophers, astronomers, and mathematicians. He recognized the Sharh al-Nuqayah and Sargudhasht-i Sayyidnā, a biography of Hassan i Sabbah, Persian founder of the Hashashin sect or Assassins.
“This is an incredible collection, Kazim. Where did you find these books?”
“I can only say they are here now but may disappear tomorrow,” said Kazim. “There is much wisdom and even magic in these books but I am still learning from them.”
Tweed also saw works by Paul and Jane Bowles, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Mohammed Choukri, Mohammed Mrabet, and a copy of Morocco That Was by Walter Harris. He also saw copies of Everybody Comes to Dean’s: Dean’s Bar, Tangier, by Francis Poole, and Here to Learn: Remembering Paul Bowles, by Mark Terrill, rounding out Kazim’s collection of Tangier lore. There were also several titles by Aleister Crowley.
“I see you have The Book of Lies, and The Book of Thoth by Crowley.”
“Yes, Señor Crowley was here in Tangier many years ago. He came with his donkey, Victor Neuburg, on their way to the Algerian desert. I think Señor Crowley was going to practice his sex magic with Señor Neuberg and some djinns. He sent me copies of those books. The Book of Thoth can be useful for reading Egyptian tarot cards.”
“Yes, I have seen many discarded tarot cards in the streets,” said Tweed.
Tweed had known someone in England who had been part of Crowley’s harem when he lived in the Abbey of Thelema in Sicily. The man had told Tweed that he was lucky to get out of there alive. For a moment Tweed had an urge to steal one of the Arabic books but resisted the temptation. It was as though he were being watched by an invisible eye. And he still needed to hear what Kazim had to say about magic carpets.
“Please sit, Señor Tweed, Habiba is bringing tea. We should discuss your problem.”
After Habiba served the tea, both men leaned back against the plush cushions and drank their tea in silence. “First,” said Kazim, “you have to find a magic carpet, and then comes the hardest part, using its magical powers in a way that will not bring harm to you or others. I could maybe ask one of the old rug merchants if they knew where you might find one.” As Tweed listened, he heard the T. Rex song, Bang a Gong playing. Suddenly there was a furious pounding at the outer door. Tweed looked at Kazim and Kazim slowly rose from the banquette and walked into the adjacent room. A few moments later he came back with a long, gleaming, Japanese Katana sword. The pounding increased and was joined by Habiba’s shouts. Both men made their way to the front door with Kazim holding the Katana at his side.
As they stepped into the entryway they heard a man’s voice. Kazim opened the large main door and there in the street stood Abdul and the grubby urchin from Eric’s and the Café Triangle, and a donkey which had a rolled-up carpet tied to its side. Tweed recognized the carpet as the one he had seen at Abdul’s.
“Salaam alaikum, Kazim. Labas, Señor Tweed.”
“Who is that boy with the donkey? I remember him from the Café Triangle.”
“Oh, that is Steetoo, my nephew,” said Abdul. “He is a good boy. No problem.”
Kazim motioned for Abdul to step inside the vestibule and closed the door, leaving the boy and the donkey outside. The three men shook hands and kissed cheeks. Tweed noticed that his knees were shaking. Abdul looked at the nervous Tweed and said, “Maybe you not believe Abdul have what you need so you come to ask Kazim for a carpet?”
“Uh, no,“ said Tweed. “I just stopped by for a visit and we were having tea and talking.” Tweed had often seen evidence of a kind of telepathic consciousness among Moroccans which enabled them to seemingly read one another’s thoughts.
“No problem my friend Tweed. Kazim is like my brother. He did not know I had such a carpet. I came because we must hurry to St. Andrew’s. After you left I found some other talismans which were very strong. The carpet, she is come alive! Quickly, we must take her to the cemetery to make the magic work. I know Mustapha locks up the gate soon so let us go now! Insha’Allah, her magic will be great.”
Kazim turned to Tweed and nodded in agreement. “If you are moving a Nazrani body, Señor Tweed, that is your business. Abdul can help you more than I could. You should go. I am tired and must stay here. Also Habiba promised me a special treat after I eat her delicious tagine.” There was a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he mentioned the “treat.”
A few doors up the street from Aicha’s villa on the Old Mountain, Tony Mahoney and Ravi Kahn were comfortably installed in Tony’s recording studio. The lights were low, the lava lamps were glowing with colored blobs morphing from shape to shape, and the soundproofed double glass doors were open to the terrace, letting in the fragrance of eucalyptus trees and the rain, which had now stopped but was still dripping in the trees. Behind the vintage Fairlight mixing console along the back wall of the studio were mounted a series of identically framed photographs of various producers who—in Tony’s estimation—had made considerable contributions to the world of music; Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Jimmy Miller, Bob Johnston, Mickie Most, Jack Clement, Andrew Loog Oldham, Martin Hannett, Tom Wilson, Lou Adler, Tony Visconti, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Rothchild, Bill Laswell and many others. Curled up on the long black leather couch below the framed portraits were Tony’s two black cats, Fear and Trembling.
Ravi touched the flame of a Bic lighter to the chunky cube of hashish in the clay bowl of a large, extravagant, hand-painted glass water pipe, the hand-embroidered tube of which was tipped with a hand-carved wooden mouthpiece placed firmly between Tony’s pursed lips, as the smoke bubbled up through the water creating a cozy familiar gurgling sound and Tony filled his lungs with the savory, potent water-cooled smoke. Glancing over at the computer screen without exhaling, he clicked the mouse and a sample of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” boomed through the monitor speakers on both sides of the console. He clicked the mouse again and there immediately followed a sample of ACDC’s “Highway to Hell.”
“Yeah!” Ravi cried. “That’s it! Stairwell to Hell! Wait till the kids in Barcelona hear that! Holy shit!”
“Yeah, it could be good. We just gotta work out the tempo thing and then figure out the parts for the Gnawa guys, and we’ll be rocking.”
Ravi and Tony high-fived each other and leaned forward in their chairs in order to better get on with the work ahead. This newest collaboration was a last-minute project in preparation for their upcoming tour, during which they would be accompanied by the same ensemble of Gnawa musicians that they’d played with last night in the Café Triangle, which had also served as a sort of live rehearsal. The tour would start across the strait in Algeciras, passing through Gibraltar, Seville, Lisbon, Porto, Valladolid, Madrid, Zaragoza, Barcelona, Montpellier, Marseilles, Genoa, Florence, Rome and finally Malta, before returning to Tangier for a grand finale. Tony and Ravi would ride in the one tour bus with the equipment in back, while the Gnawa musicians would follow in another small passenger bus.
The idea for “Stairwell to Hell” had originally been just another late-night kif-inspired whim in the Café Triangle, but one morning upon first entering his studio Tony started cuing up various samples and playing them back and quickly came to the realization that it could actually work. Played live with the Gnawa ensemble, without the aid of the samples, it would become a totally autonomous and highly incendiary piece of music which could become the cornerstone and crowning glory of the tour repertoire.
Back in Aicha’s villa, Zodelia the maid was standing in the kitchen in the midst of a moral quandary of sorts. Although Mohammed had given her strict instructions not to enter the garage under any circumstances whatsoever, Zodelia’s curiosity was getting the better of her. Under the pretense of getting a sack of potatoes in order to prepare dinner, Zodelia descended the stairs to the garage and unlocked the door. She switched on the light and stepped inside and looked around. Seeing and hearing nothing unusual, she walked around to where the small storeroom was located which contained sacks of potatoes and onions, bags of couscous and flour, dried fruits, garlic, wine and so forth.
As she was passing the long workbench along the back wall she noticed the two halves of the marble tombstone lying on the floor next to the workbench. She stopped and hovered there for a moment while staring down at the strange Nazrani inscription carved into the cracked, mossy marble, which she was unable to decipher. She kneeled down, and as though in a trance, reached out with her hands and began to trace the strange letters with her fingers.
Two floors higher, a shot rang out, followed by the sound of breaking glass.
(c) 2014 By The Authors
FRANCIS POOLE first visited Morocco in 1973 and 1975 and was eventually hired to teach English at the American School of Tangier in 1979. During this time he met and befriended Paul Bowles, in whose apartment he also met Mohamed Mrabet, Mohamed Temsamani, Mohamed Choukri, Gavin Lambert, Claude Thomas, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, and others. During Poole’s three-year stay in Tangier he wrote poetry and edited BLADES, a small magazine of experimental writing to which Paul Bowles contributed several items, including the first poem he ever wrote as a young child. After other teaching stints in Evora and Lisbon, Portugal, Poole eventually returned to the USA, where he became a film archivist at the University of Delaware, which had a substantial Paul Bowles collection. Poole was then able to negotiate the acquisition of a substantial amount of Bowles’s papers, notebooks, letters, and books, which greatly expanded the University of Delaware’s collection. Poole last spoke with Bowles in September, 1999, two months before his death. The outcome of that conversation was the last interview with Paul Bowles, which appeared in Five Points. Poole has published several collections of prose and poetry, including Everybody Comes to Dean’s; Dean’s Bar, Tangier, (Poporo Press, 2012), Snakeskin Raincoat (Poporo Press, 2013), and with Kevin Lacey he co-edited Mirrors on the Maghrib: Critical Reflections on Paul and Jane Bowles and Other American Writers in Morocco (Caravan Books, 1996.) His essay on Hollywood’s depiction of the Moroccan bandit, Moulay Ahmed al-Raisuli in The Wind and the Lion, was published in The Arab-African and Islamic Worlds: Interdisciplinary Studies, and an essay on William Burroughs and the Beats was published in International Quarterly. Other writings have appeared in the Village Voice, Exquisite Corpse, Black Moon, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Bukowski Review, Chiron Review, Lost and Found Times, New York Quarterly, Pearl, Poema Convidado, Poetry East, Rolling Stone, Shattered Wig Review and elsewhere. Recently he collaborated with Mark Terrill on two limited edition chapbooks of poetry illustrated with collages by John Digby, The Spleen of Madrid and A Pair of Darts (both Feral Press, 2012). Poole lives with his wife in Newark, Delaware.
MARK TERRILL shipped out of San Francisco as a merchant seaman to the Far East and beyond, and was a participant in a writing workshop with Paul Bowles at the American School of Tangier, Morocco, in 1982, resulting in a long-lasting friendship and many return visits to Tangier over the years. After extensive travels and stays in Europe, Terrill settled in Hamburg, Germany, in 1984, where he’s worked as a shipyard welder, road manager for rock bands, cook and postal worker. He is the author of Here to Learn; Remembering Paul Bowles (Green Bean Press, 2002) Bread & Fish (The Figures, 2002), The United Colors of Death (Pathwise Press, 2003), The Salvador-Dalai-Lama Express, (Main Street Rag, 2009), Laughing Butcher Berlin Blues (Poetry Salzburg, 2010) and 22 other books and chapbooks of poetry, prose and translations. Other writings and translations have appeared in over 700 literary journals and anthologies worldwide, including City Lights Review, Cahiers d’Art, Bombay Gin, Denver Quarterly, Fourteen Hills, Skanky Possum, Gargoyle, Rattle, Zen Monster, Talisman, Jacket, Partisan Review and elsewhere. In 2009 he was invited to guest-edit a special German Poetry issue of the Atlanta Review, which included his translations of Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Nicolas Born and many others. Together with the poet Cralan Kelder, Terrill co-edited the poetry journal Full Metal Poem. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his own work has been translated into German, French and Portuguese, and he’s given readings in various venues in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Prague and Hamburg. Recent publications include a chapbook of his translations of the poetry of Jörg Fauser, An Evening in Europe (Toad Press, 2011), and a full-length collection of his translations of the poetry of Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, An Unchanging Blue, Selected Poems 1962-1975 (Parlor Press / Free Verse Editions, 2011). Currently he lives on the grounds of a former boatyard near Hamburg with his wife and a large brood of cats.