Poem: Oh Cairo

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Cairo Airport at Night - from http://www.egyptdaytours.com


Stepping out of the airport doors 
Into the heavy night air 
I fill my lungs like a love-struck bride 
At the scent of her husband’s cologne 
Exactly as an addicted ex-smoker 
At the scent of burning leaves 
Or upon entering a smoke-filled room 

Oh Cairo, Ya Qahira 
All of Egypt is contained in my lungs 
So heavily laden is your scent 
It is both noxious and obnoxious 
Exhilarating and exalting 
Addicting and sensuous as my husband’s cologne 
So complex is your corporate perfume 

The warm grassy smell of fresh donkey dung 
Permeates the carbon monoxide 
And the alcoholic scent of rotting grapes 
And the spicy sweet smell of sticky dried dates 
And fish in all stages of life to decay 
And the flowery scent of the golden guava 
Whose smell tastes better than her flavor 

It is an intoxicating, toxic perfume 
Of donkeys and horses, sheep and men 
All equally common in this congestion 
Equally carrying right of way 
Even on the busiest highways and byways 
Spewing forth fumes from huge diesel trucks, 
From minivans, motorcycles, taxis and cars 

And wooden donkey carts painted brightly with flowers 
Hauling mountains of pungent manure 
Vying with tour buses and bicycles 
And pedestrians and tourists on scooters 
And horse carts stacked with crates to the sky 
Stuffed with cucumbers, lemons and tomatoes, 
Oranges, persimmons, peas and beans, peppers and potatoes 

And little boys, whistling, tapping their sticks on the street 
As they guide their huge herds of sheep 
Claustrophobically close in musky huddles 
They travel like moving dust piles 
Transporting swarms of flies as they shuffle 
Obliviously precariously bleating and crying 
Through the chaotically crowded streets 

Everything exudes its own special smell 
Contributing to the corporate perfume 
Of millions of closely-knit families 
Of millions of husband’s colognes 
Of musks and lavenders, jasmine and rose 
The incense of life burns day and night 
Burning trash, burning fields, burning passions 

Burning tears in a poor child’s eyes 
His clothes smell of urine and his open hand 
Begs for money, and he speaks to me 
I tell him by Arabic that I don’t know Arabic 
And he looks at me like I am crazy 
I haven’t a coin to my name at this moment 
And I look back like I can’t explain 

If I could speak his language 
What would I say? 
I would probably be just as speechless 
I stand dumb-founded trying to imagine 
What could possibly make a difference 
Then my husband appears and shoos him away 
With a coin and a word of encouragement 

I link my arm in his arm and I smile 
At his gentle face, his heart full of kindness, 
His mastery of even tough situations, 
A smile of gratified satiation 
It is the smile of a love-struck bride 
And then with a grin of uncanny understanding 
He guides me away into the night 

(c) 10/28/05 Aisha Abdelhamid

Click Here To Continue To Chapter 2 of “Oh Cairo”

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Cairo, Egypt - Nile River at Night (c)Vail, Ginny/Peggy/Mary?

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