The Storyteller & other poems


Poems around the fire pit.

Words by & illustration by Aga Hallmann

An illustration of a storyteller holding their audience's attention.

The Storyteller


Here behind the bonfire where I loiter

veiled by flaring tongues

and crackling sparks,

with florid wordage and gesticulations

will I transmit elaborate tales

of sultans and thieves, coistrels and lazars,

beasts and demons, each in lurid detail.


Desert warriors! Lend me your rapt attention

as you recline on cushionets,

sipping from goatskins, nibbling labneh;

while logs glow let me regale you

with nostalgic recollections,

momentous quests, arduous journeys,

and the vagaries of chance and circumstance,

until night’s shawl retreats before the sunburst

…and even as you squint I vanish.


Illustration of a man appearing or disappearing in smoke from a bonfire.



Let us now in secret begin

our nocturnal discourse,

spinning stories beneath stars,

weaving narrative threads at night.

I mean by moonlight to escalate

our own spiritual osculation

via cushion conversation:

pillow-talk me to rapture.


I’ll entice you with tales

of heroes and rogues;

I’ll entrance you with legends

abounding in magic and wonder,

if you swathe me in fantasy

then envelop me in fable

till I am wholly unable

to tell truth from lore.


Illustration of a man looking lovingly at a woman looking down at something



While the palm wine flows

oral lore spills from moistened lips,

a steady drip of fantasy and myth,

of dreams adopted and abandoned.


Emirs and sheikhs spout boastful verses

of deeds and pledges,

passionate rhymes from clannish warriors

aching for the battlefield, lording over the desert.


Between fingered clumps of spiced rice and mutton

nomad elders nod and mumble,

immersed in memory’s pool, marveling and amused

at how yesteryear’s desires live on in tomorrow’s oaths.


Illustration of three figures riding horses



The chamber was perfumed with musk and amber,

the palm wine laid out;

with the cloop of a cork, the soirée began.

Three guests and one ululating musician

partook in the richness of each other’s company;

arak circulated among the bibulous

as the poet recited a heartfelt ode

describing the saliva of his beloved.

Dates and dolmades made the rounds,

greasing our fingertips

as we glimpsed moonrise through the window.

Under night’s murk, all inhibitions eased.

We were then in the heaven of happiness;

at length we spoke of love, the language of paradise.

Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 200+ publications in 27 countries.