Inside archways inscribed on metal,
gorgon heads or scorpions dangle; letters in arabic
crawl the rims of shallow bowls made to hold
water into which keys have bled their rust all night.
Drink in the morning to be cured of terror.
Mohammad Ali's mosque is lit from within,
high on the citadel's white rock above the City
of the Dead, shelved in tombs, acres
of Fatimids and Mamlukes. Behind lattices
of arabesqued ironwork, the dead send forth
their fetches. A shadow scratches with his
the crusted eyes of dead animals implore.
The Nile has risen too far. Dreams push in,
driving our eyes open. Women peer
back from the spooled-wood, lacework
cages of mashrabeyah, screening them
from strangers in every window in old Cairo.
These hours before the world wakes, drink the blue
antidote, as lightening sky curdles over, a pool
filling with sounds of birds. Its giant bowl pours;
birds rush and fill the archways of a shrine
in each of us, a courtyard of white pebbles
it never rains over. Outside the walls, the desert slides
to the Sinai. Behind her heat curtain, wind spins dust.
One flame tree rains yellow leaves like grains of rice.
© 2002 Tina Barr
Tina Barr's poetry has been published in
American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review,
Boulevard, boundary 2, Chelsea, Crab Orchard
Review, The Harvard Review, Louisiana Literature,
Notre Dame Review, The Southern Review,
Southwest Review, West Branch and elsewhere.
At Dusk on Naskeag Point (1984), selected by David
Wojahn, won the Flume Press Chapbook Contest; The Fugitive
Eye (1997), selected by Yusef Komunyakaa, won the Painted
Bride Quarterly Chapbook Contest. She has received Fellowships
from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania
Council on the Arts. She directs the Creative Writing Program
at Rhodes College.