"Me I do not like religion," admits Mohammed.
Sunlight haloes his beard and short black hair.
There's pretty endemic flowers of the Middle Atlas
arrayed around his feet. We eat our snacks and stare
out across Morocco: myself, my wife, the guide;
three exalted beings on a cliff-top,
a tiny town beneath us, mosque shining white
and pasture till low hills edge the distance off.
It's Eid el-Kibir, the end of the Hajj, the festival
when every Muslim household kills a sheep and feasts.
We've seen them manhandled in Medinas wherever we've travelled,
tethered in hallways, hoiked through bazaars with squeals and bleats
and long queues snaking to the knife-grinders' wheels.
With both of us squeamish and her a veggie to boot,
we'd plumped for a tour of the cedar forest. Delighted we'd been
to team up with a guide whose ideas met our views!
Mohammed knows the names of all the small wild flowers.
He whistles down Barbary Apes that squat in the leaves.
He shows us tracks of deer and the marks where boar have ploughed
and snuffled the needle mulch beneath colossal trees.
"Worship God by the death of sheep? For me it is mad!
My religion is here: the birds recite my prayers,
the wind is my Qur'an!" Mohammed sweeps a hand
as if to stroke the buzzards ranged on the rising air.
My wife she beams at him the gentle hike back down.
Butterflies kiss her hair along the forest tracks.
She walks tall, eyes ablaze. A mile out of town
women in headscarves are bowed along the banks
of an oily stream. Sheep-smell taints the air.
They scrub and stack up skins in heaps with fluid splats.
We pad dilapidated streets, taking care
to side-step black clots on the footpath.