Sunday, January 3, 2010

at dusk, communion with cairo

at dusk the kites rise
billowing in the air
coloring the sky
circling over the city of the dead
like the skirts of a whirling dervish
circle over a stationary floor
red yellow green blue

your air smells of smog
of fried eggplant
of white tuberose
strung on silk thread and
worn around my neck
your datepalms are
pregnant with secrets
(my secrets and yours)
and life-bearing fruit
they tower over you
and over your glorious sand
your glorious dust
your glorious mud
and over your tent-covered market
offering cardamom seed
and hibiscus blossom
and over your ancient temples
where the air lays upon the ruins
like painted glass upon the horizon
and over your ancient river
the father of rivers
as it glows and flows
emerald and elegant
while boats ride it into
the expectant sky of you
my beautiful cairo
my victorious one

the people amble in the streets
and over your bridge of dreams
their long shadows stretching
graying your sidewalks
and the stiff air does not move
to let them pass
to let them breathe
light slivers slowly
threatening to fall
while grains of dust
sporadically speckle the air
and i hold my breath
not for lack of need to breathe
but for worship of you
my beautiful cairo
my victorious one

a child touches my hand
and tugs
and pulls
his toffee eyes look into mine
upturned and dreamy
the saddest eyes i've ever seen
(his or mine)
eyes that have seen
too much too soon
and he smiles
and he wraps
his little fingers in mine
and he says
bahebbik ya amar
while the perfume vendor
sings to me of amber
sings to me of rose
sings to me of musk
and other aromatic aphrodisiacs
that promise sensual satisfactions
and i blink
in the dust
in the dusk
in the purple splendor of you
my beautiful cairo
my victorious one

in your glamorous palaces of old
the exiled deceased sleep and dream
while in your shattered graveyards of new
in those squatted mausoleums of broken bones
the trampled living dwell amongst the dead
and offer me tea prepared on a primus stove
and we sit and sip in silence and listen to you
come alive
between your saffron sunset
and your mercury moon
come alive
between crypted cenotaph
and stolen solitude
we sit and sip in silence and listen to you
my beautiful cairo
my victorious one

and the pigeons flock
and the pigeons preen
and the pigeons coo
and the pigeons draw circles
and the pigeons paint silhouettes
upon your sky
and the pigeons chant
in tongues unknown
bestowing their blessings
upon me
upon you
my beautiful cairo
my victorious one

and the minarets hum to one another
in the lavender haze of a day gone by
one more day in your life
my most beautiful cairo
my most victorious one
one more day in your life
that will endure forever
or if not forever
then at least until i die
and am buried beneath
the eternal dust of you
my beautiful cairo
my victorious one

my womb
my mother
my shelter
my tomb

(Ar.) bahebbik ya amar: I love you, gorgeous.


  1. Your words paint such a picture...Im lost once again in the beauty of all you write...

    peace my friend;)

  2. I have never been to Cairo......until today. Thank you.

  3. Well, you have made me think of traveling to that ancient city to see for myself. You are so gifted.


  4. Nevine , you just transported me there,. I have been to that magical city.
    Very beautifully written as always.
    Hope you're having a great time.
    loads of love

  5. Lady Poet...

    This vision of a place I never thought of getting in through words. YOUR vision, YOUR words... the best depiction... The smell of those scents come out of your poem, and so do the sounds and the lights and the view of that dust and that child's eyes...

    I JUST LOVE IT, dear Nevine & queen

    I once told Shadow, today I tell you: When I grow old I want to write like you ;)

  6. Maybe because I am reading 'Reading Lolita in Tehran', maybe because I tried to call my mum in Cuba to no avail, maybe because we had a full blue moon on the 1st of January, maybe... maybe... whatever that maybe may be, your poem touched a chord inside my body that has set a melodical chain of memories in motion and sees no sign of abating. Many thanks.

    Unrelated question. You were 21 at the end of last year, and now you're 38, is that what happens 'once in a blue moon'? Seventeen years elapse and we don't even notice? :-)

    Great, great post.

    Greetings from London.

  7. I thank God that I'm allowed to like things different from one another; Writers,Wines (not me--grin!) cities, occupations, people, poets.

    So I adore the poems of at least a half dozen bloggers, the writings of many more. and these pages have become a large and indispensable part of my sober life.

    But this, THIS...your post today, is TOP SHELF, and could well sit beside whatever you will EVER add to your "bookshelf". thank you SO much for sharing your talent and your work with us--and we get all this stuff from you, Shadow, Calli, Dulce, others and paintings from Manon and Calli, etc., all for FREE!

    BLESSINGS to you ALL!

  8. Amazing to slice the surface of a place and slip inside the whispering viscera. Thank you for sharing this one.

  9. From the first line with the kites I was transported into another place. I knew it was a far away land, but as the poem unfolded the city became more and more yes, as Jason said, visceral. Whoa. And I just wanted to be there and feel it, and for just an instant your words put me there.

    In Jaisalmer, India, on the edge of the Thar desert, I would lie on cusions on the roof of my hotel watching the kites flying off the ancient fort at sunset. I remember that with a melancholy ache, and your poem gives that same feeling back to me.

    I could see this poem as a most luscious audio piece.

  10. I am truly thankful to cross paths with wonderful people from all over the world who share their culture, their lives and experiences to others who may not get a chance to see for themselves or who have never heard of such exotic places. Although I have heard of Cairo. The name itself commands authority and gracious beauty. Thank you Nevine for embarking me on such a journey through your eyes, your heart and your lovely mind.

  11. Please don't take this the wrong way, Nevine, but I'm a little shocked.

    Your poem was wonderful. Wonderful in that the rhythm was absolutely perfect. SO hard to get rhythm right in poetry! In writing, in fact! But you do it perfectly! It's either something that you hear or you don't, and you absolutely do. I'm charmed and a little warm and fuzzy!

    Very happy indeed to have meet you. And thank you also for stopping by the house of the dead spaceman!

    Steph Fey x

  12. Stephen - :-)

    Martin - I hope you enjoyed the trip... :-)

    Secretia - Ancient she is. I'm sure you would enjoy your visit, too.

    Betty - Are you liking your second trip? The view? He he he...

    Dulce - You really are too sweet. And no words of mine could ever truly capture the spirit of that magnificent city of mine. But, I tried. And thank you for that kindest of compliments; I'm sooooooo flattered, especially when it comes from you, such a fine poet, my dear!

    Cuban - I know how it is when all the right chemistry comes together to create that perfect feeling, and I'm just thrilled to have been a part of that magical memory experience you had. And BTW, I also know the feeling of trying to call mom and not being able to get through. I've been there at least a dozen times. And 21 at the end of last year? Yikes. The last time I remember being 21 was 17 years ago. And that was soooo long ago, Dear Cuban. But, I'll tell you this... I do feel 21 in my heart. :-)

    Steve - If you aren't the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful man, I don't know who is. And that's all I'm saying about that. And by the way, free stuff is always the funnest, don't you think? Hugs to you, Steve.

    Jason - I don't know if I quite got to the viscera; I think I merely scratched the surface. But that was good enough, I suppose. And it was my pleasure to share... :-)

    Cat - There are many connections and similarities between so many of those ancient cultures, aren't there? I think flying kites is one of those favorite early evening activities in many of the old eastern cultures. And I'm happy if I brought back some nice memories, though they made you melancholy. Still, there's a bubbling joy inside such sadness. And only you could imagine this as an audio piece, with your audio talent. Yes, I can hear it recited by your lovely voice.

    Sharla - And thank you for always being here and sharing such special moments with me. She's my lovely home city, always in my heart, and I'm always afraid to allow myself to write about her, because when I do, I always cry with longing for her. So I'm so happy you liked this; I really do appreciate it.

    Steph - Well, I've been wanting to stop in for the past couple of days, but I was sort of off for the past few... so I waited. But I'm happy I finally made it over today. And thank you for stopping in, and for joining me, and of course, for your lovely comment. And if you're feeling warm and fuzzy, then I'm just over the moon. :-)

  13. bang on as always, nevine :)

    all the best to you and yours for 2010...

  14. Nevine . . . Nevine . . . you surpass yourself.

    A lovely ode to a birthplace, to unforgettable memories, and so far you have gone from there, will it still be as such when you return ? Can one return after long exile ? I wonder...

    What a pleasure to read such a piece, it could have carried on for pages for volumes, and one would just continue reading, mesmerized, hypnotized by the glory of it all...

    And in the background, in a side street, I see the perfume vendor, smell myriad sweet smells wafting... an image to dream on. Dreaming...

  15. Nevine ....i fall on my knees and kiss this poem as i would kiss your Egypt.

    when i ll climb the first pyramid i will surely see the secret processions of the pharoans , and why Sirius moved when Nephretiti smiled.

    "Bahebbik ya amar!".....

    NB; so wonderful to have you back!

  16. Hello Nevine!
    I'm very busy at the moment:( but as soon as I've got the time I'll come back and read your poem.

    Have a nice week!

  17. I am never going to see pigeons the same again. You gave me new ways of viewing pigeons and seeing them that way.

    You are amazing.

    Tom Bailey

  18. Laughingwolf - And to you and yours as well. I'll keep banging for as long as I can. ;-)

    Owen - I do go home to visit every year if I can, and if not, then every two years. And every time that I go back, some things have changed. But they are all cosmetic things. The spirit of Cairo is the spirit of Cairo - unchanging and undaunted. She is, and always will be, my Cairo, I suppose. Eternal. Thank you for seeing the images, Owen.

    COL - What poetic words, COL. I so appreciate such words about my lovely city. And I'm so happy to be back. It feel so good...

    Crémilde - Take your time, chérie. I'm not going anywhere. I'll be awaiting ton retour... J'attends.

    Tom - Oh, Tom, thank you so much. Pigeons are such lovely creatures, and I do love them so.

  19. What a gorgeous tribute to the place you call home. We all have feelings like this for our homes but rarely do we see that feeling expressed in such an elegant way.

    I've wanted to visit Cairo and the rest of Egypt for years and years. Hopefully one day I'll make it there.

    It's kite flying season over here in India too. The kite vendors are making a fortune and everywhere I go I get kite string tangled up in my sandals. But it's worth it to see the kites soaring in the sky, swaying with the wind.


  20. Just wonderful Nevine.. I have been to Cairo years ago but your words were so strong that time dissapeered and I am there again now..

  21. Jai - "Elegant" suits me just fine. And I do hope you'll one day make it to Cairo at least; it's such a lovely city. And I suppose you might find many parallels between the Egyptian and the Indian cultures. Kite flying is only one of those parallels, I think.

    Turquoise - I'm glad to have given you another small taste of my beloved city. :-)

  22. i hope never to have meet you in person Nevine .
    imagine you right in front of me ... you would manipulate me as i was a puppy .. exactly like when i read you .

    this was a view .
    good to be back to blogsphere . i missed this .

  23. what a magical carpet ride you granted us with the absolute beauty of your haunting words, dear nevine! words from another place another time cast into this moment - touching each one of us!!! thank you!

  24. been there and your words bring it all back...


  25. How beautiful, Nevine... The old and the new will always fill our hearts and break our hearts...

    Happy New Year! May it bring only the best to you and your loved ones.

  26. Caio - You make me laugh. And it's good to have you back, too!

    Gypsywoman - And thank you for your always kind comments. They're always appreciated.

    Reaper - You've been there? Wow! I'm happy to hear it, and happy to have brought back some memories...

    Vesper - You said it so well. And our memories are always so bittersweet. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  27. Hey Nevine,
    The poem has taken my breath away. How you manage to make it sound "exotic" (with all its western connotations) but at the same time you show the real thing:
    "and the stiff air does not move
    to let them pass
    to let them breathe"

    reminds me of Ahdaf Soueif's writing, the way she manages to reconcile the east and west, istead of showing the two cultures clashing, her literature is hybrid.
    You, Nevine - have mastered it. You gave the Egyptians their own voice. They speak, unmediated by the foreign, "exotic" perspective. In short, the poem is arrestingly beautiful.

  28. It's my first time to your blog. You're a beautiful poet. Keep writing and keep dreaming!

  29. Khulud - What a beautiful comment! And Ahdaf Soueif? She's amazing! So, needless to say, I'm very flattered. Thank you so much.

    Eva - Welcome! And thank you for those very kind words. I hope you'll be returning for more dreams.

  30. This is just outstanding and astounding. That is all.

  31. Gerry, when I get such a comment from a fine poet such as yourself, I don't know what to do except just beam inside myself that my dabblings in poetry should be so appreciated. Thank you so very much!

  32. sorry i'm late - running around trying to catch up - thank god i didn't miss this one. absolutely mesmerizing. it moves like the wind under those kites and transcends like the city you describe. if i'd found it in an anthology of immortal classics i would not have been surprised. truly.

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. Belle et tendre amie des lettres
    Ah, si j'étais la belle ville du Caire
    en me voyant dans cette petite fenêtre
    haute en couleurs et avec autant de verve
    peinte de la main d’une si charmante auteure
    je crois bien que je ne serais pas peu fière!

    Hélas, belle et tendre amie des lettres
    je ne pourrais être la belle Victorieuse
    avec ses minarets et son bouquet de senteurs
    bénie par Ra et baignée par le beau Nil bleu
    que tu adules et où semble résider ton cœur
    ce qui je suis sûre, en rend plus d’un envieux!

    Mon cœur comme le tien a aussi son attache
    et entre Lisboa et Porto est resté accroché
    à un petit promontoire baigné par la mer
    un petit bout de terre de marins -pêcheurs
    qu’il y a bien longtemps il a dû quitter
    pour un pays qu’on croyait prometteur !

    Ah, si je pouvais faire mien ce poème
    me l'approprier et le dédier à mon tour
    à cette petite ville où j'ai vu le jour
    et qui dans l’atlantique fait son baptême
    je serais comme un soleil d'été au zénith
    qui après une longue nuit revit et ressuscite!

    Ah, si je pouvais faire mien ce poème
    je n'aurais que peu de mots à changer
    sur ma princesse je poserais un diadème
    le couvrirais d’émeraudes et diamants
    qui jetteraient des éclats par milliers
    et feraient pâlir le soleil au firmament!

    Ah, si je pouvais faire mien ce poème
    j'écrirais Nazaré à la place du Caire
    à la place du cœur, je mettrais mes tripes
    la senteur des morues et autres sardines
    que grillent partout et embaument l'air
    au lieu du safran et des aubergines !

    Et l’enfant saisissant ma main
    du tien, serait si peu différent
    ses yeux vert noisette ensorcelants
    et le regard débordant de tristesse
    car la vie n’a pas tenu ses promesses
    il dirait‘te amo formosa’en nazaréen !

    Merci charmante et tendre poétesse
    d'avoir fait vibrer cordes et poulies,
    gouvernail, mât, et toutes voiles dehors
    de ce bateau qu'est mon corps et âme,
    avec sa coque en exil bien loin de son port
    et son cœur qui pleure et toujours se pâme
    pour sa lointaine bien aimée,
    la belle Nazaré !

    Des étoiles d’or et d’argent
    sur ton passage ma divine Nevine
    belle amie des arts ambassadrice
    je veux semer à tous les vents
    et que ta vie elles illuminent
    De leur lumière tendre et protectrice

  35. Joaquin - I'm so flattered, especially about the "immortal classics" part ;-). And thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Crémilde - Wow! Tu m'as boulversée avec ce poème incroyablement chaleureux. Et que la lumière des étoiles te protège, aussi. Je suis vraiment touchée, Crémilde. Et c'est toi la poétesse, chérie! Je rêve d'aller en Portugal, un de ces jours... Merci mille fois! :-)


Your thoughts are deeply appreciated.