The angel came down to earth bearing a message of peace. He swept over the pyramids of Giza and landed in the heart of Cairo. People gathered around to witness the heavenly being, capturing the moment through the camera lenses on their phones. The world watched this miracle unfold — taking in the angel’s magnificent wings, which arched off his back in a graceful curve. His skin glistened in the sun like fine copper while his hair fell below his shoulders in flowing locks like unkempt wool. And when he spoke, the people listened, for his voice was like the song of a nightingale bearing the promise of a brighter future. The angel spoke of love and peace, of fear and hatred, of humanity and the eternal light. His words reached the ear of the president, who feared his own stardom would be diminished. He ordered his intelligence agencies to act, and so they did. The angel made the evening news — they called him a criminal, an anarchist, a troublemaker, an outcast. They said he fled from Heaven under a cloud of shame, with the goal of chaos and war. They censored his speeches and erased his online presence. And still the angel stood in the heart of Cairo and called for freedom while the people listened with open hearts. In his growing fear, the president deployed the army, which surrounded the angel and took aim at his chest. The angel smiled for he knew the battle had been won. He removed a single daffodil from his pocket and planted it in the cement beneath his feet. He then spread his resplendent wings and took off, ascending the heavens, his purpose achieved.
From “The Little Light that Escaped”
But I remember.
The scent of sun and ash, a taste of resin, blame. Summers across slanting floors and smiles like sickles for thoughts of flight. Abandoned streets and a feeling of sinking. Makeshift holes not far from the sea; closer in, the cicadas’ hum the whirl straight up to twilight’s hem, brittle wings which brought no breeze while all the rest were busy drinking, swallowing the searing-eyed, searing-tongued prophets and seers, and jaundicing into the yellow silence of the years. The tonal monotony of the land.
Days passing, just out of the reach of the sun. Days passing, in a basement room, watching the arc of the sun through a small square of sky. Tides of no turning. Blocks of light mosaiced while the slow days tasted of mineral, copper, rust.
Silver Box, Girl in Office
I work on the ninth floor of a cramped office tower in downtown Cairo, where like everyone else I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in the elevators. Waiting and watching.
who are you and who am I
he stayed me
and he said to me Who are you and who am I and I saw the sun and the moon and the stars and all the lights ashine and he said to me There is no light in my sea shines on without I have seen it and each thing came to me until no thing was left and kissed me between my eyes and saluted me and stood in shadow and he said to me You know me and I do not know you and I saw all of him clung to my robe and not to me and my robe leant and I did not and my robe leant and he said to me Who am I and the sun went down and the moon and the stars fell and the lights were put out and the dark covered all things but him and my eye did not see and my ear did not hear my senses ceased and each thing spoke it said Allahu Akbar and each thing came to me a spear in its hand it said to me Flee and I said Where to and it said Fall into darkness and into darkness I fell and I saw myself and he said to me See none but yourself ever Come out from darkness never And should I bring you out from it I would show you myself You would see me and should you see me you would be most distant of all
he stayed me
On the Bus
Caught up short on the express bus and those drivers don’t stop for shit. I avoid the express because of my affliction but it was filthy out, brown cold rain, and here come the bus, and jostling, and I don’t notice, and it’s an express, and it won’t stop.
I’m good at first, plop down in a seat, bag under my feet, floor wet but seat warm.
Claude said it come from eating out of trashcans and such. They fixed us so we could not ever have kids and road us on a rail out of Utah.
I like to look into the houses, warm glows of lights, the bus passes.
I consider my options.
Bad to give us a bad name. And I do not call myself that. I’m a traveler. A time traveler. I travel all the time. Round and round the city I go.
But I can’t hold it any longer, and this an express bus, so here we go.
Need a boat to paddle out of here. Gives a whole new meaning to disembark.
There is no way for me to measure how much time this day was coming, but it seems to have been destined to arrive to me since always. There are no means left to escape it, and I recognise that even if I had them, I would only be postponing what will never go away, and I accept the need to face it. There is nothing but my conscience and my self now left to live with. It is time to take account – this once and always. However as I start to take account I find it difficult to know where to begin, if not the fact of my forgetting what it was that I would like to come to terms with. For perhaps it is this very lack of memory that I need to take account of. Not the memory of my deeds – although those deeds may be remembered in the course of my account to cause me many hours of shame and wishful thinking – but the memory of the reason I was given this existence, my forgetting of which cause has been the cause of my regrettable behaviours.
Suddenly the sunbeam disappeared. I believe a cloud is passing over the house. Sunbeams disappear for two reasons alone: clouds hide them or it is night. And being morning, most probably a cloud is passing.
Maybe soon it will rain and I will be able to watch the rain from the window. Life is so beautiful: that circumstances allowing one can watch the rain. Mine is a water sign and I imagine that now and then a planet up in space melts and flows down in front of me. Happy notion. I pick it up and approach the window. I open the pane and look out at the cars, the arid asphalt, the weary labourers. Why do these labourers get tired? I used to get tired myself sometimes and the sweat would flow, but then I turned my back on it and for years I rested. Sweat of the brow is hateful; shameful in fact. Disgusting: rising from sleep to make oneself sweat. A car goes by leaving a light cloud of dust behind it. A cat asleep on the corner opens then shuts its eyes. I close the window and slowly make my way back.
When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.