On The Nile - Poem by Sheena Blackhall
Men spear fish in shallows
Sand dunes rise endless near emerging cities
Waves are a thousand flash bulbs going off
A dhow with filthy sails
(More holes than cloth) flaps like a goose
Trailing a broken wing.
Urchins paddle with tin trays,
Baling water out of a home made boat.
Cotton kaftans dry in the baking sun
Brown boys splash in the shallows
Round a broken pump,
Children gather water in pots and tins.
Green grasses, gashed by waters of the Nile;
Beyond, the desert’s thighs are golden dust.
The oxen up to their haunches in churned water,
A black handbag floats past
A swirl of effluent follows,
A hiccup in the green and jewelled water.
Sheep chew under Pepsi adverts
Taxis career on land like flying coffins
A horse, un-tethered whisks his tail by a shop.
A donkey loaded with baggage, stoically
Stumbles along a road of lorries.
There are splashes of red hibiscus flowers,
The heat, like a furnace, melts the flesh from your bones.
Herons and horses’ legs are wafer thin
Armed check points guard a honeycomb of houses.
The cobra of lower Egypt is eating its own tail
A vulture flaps in a tree, fanning the dead air.
By the marble pool, by the sun-flecked water
Bikini girls are done to a slow turn.
The old men drinking tea, beneath tall palms,
Black silhouettes on gold
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