Al Seef in Dubai

tom butler dubai creek

Women in sparkly black glide solemnly through
the esplanade gleaming with silver streaks,
past the lamppost, past the Indian electricians who
lean against the metal railing by the darkening
creek: leftover bread in silver foil, bodies doused in
sweat, gulping water, waiting for the pickup bus as
gray birds hover above the men in white with
tassels dangling from their collars—phones
blinking, eyes twinkling, gold watches jingling.
Uneaten baked prawns turn cold on their marble
plates, red and white like the eyelids of the blonde
ladies in the restaurant with mermaid dresses, necklace
beads shaped like oysters, and bags thinner than the arms
of the Filipina nursemaid pushing the baby stroller,
parting the crowd like fighting against heavy
currents, gasping for air while the blue-eyed baby
does not stop wiggling and howling like a seal.

This is Al Seef seen from a glass-bottom boat:
a shoal of humans swimming, drowning, coexisting in
a layered sea of freshwater, seawater, polluted water—
waters that will kill and burn the gills if they were to


Artwork by Tom Butler “Dubai Creek”

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