There, among the dunes, a scorpion
Hides from the slow melodic plod of the
Camel’s hoof, and if you stare long enough
At that old sandline, you may be able to see
The historic capstones being placed, or perhaps
Anthony’s army sweeping into Alexandria.
I remember the evenings when we, like Enobarbus,
Dangled our toes in that famous River,
Lay in each others arms beneath the
Jewelled canopy of pink and gold; watching
The sun heave itself below the horizon, dry clouds
Dissipating above those old Feluccas,
Still sailing on past the floating cask of Moses.
I recall the sound of a thousand Arabian nights
Re-telling themselves again and again,
Intertwined with the jingle of Hathor’s sistrum
And the flat foreign notes of the snake-charmer’s flute.
Do you remember the glare of the sun on our backs
And the sensation of sand sifting between toes?
I remember it all, but the memory most alive
Is the fragrance of incense; the aroma of burning flesh;
The roar of a man breathing fire
Challenging the raw throat of the sword-swallower:
The buzzing throng of the Mohandessin bazaar.
The yellow streets were packed with stalls
And makeshift stands, the air thick
With strange spice and sandalwood smoke;
Where everything was bought and sold
While stories traded themselves.
It is as if, along with that cheap Chinese
Effigy of Ra you made me buy,
I purchased a small grain of Cleopatra’s sand;
A lungful of coloured smoke;
And a single drop of that famous River;
Or perhaps just the toil of a Hebrew slave in carving
These memories onto the cartouche of my mind.