Ismaliya, Egypt by Shulamith Caine



I am a tourist in a dusty café

snapping photos of sheshbesh players

sipping coffee, smoking nargilas,

galabiahs billowing

around their knees stirred by rusted fan.


I am a tourist snapping photos

of goats and donkeys meandering

the road like bored teenagers,

of chickens pecking for food in mounds

of steaming excrement.


I am a tourist snapping photos

of a shrouded woman selling

fruit and water at the roadside.


I am a tourist marooned in a place

uncharted as terror as a motorcycle

careens among goats and monkeys,

scattering chickens, slamming

into green pyramids of watermelons,


A woman screams — the road is drenched in red.


If I move, I will turn to ash.


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