Archive | February, 2010

The Ones

28 Feb

WINGED HAREDIM

His dancing heart fills his garment,

As his fiery eyes transform

His jacket into a bekishe,

The cotton into silk, and satin

And on Shabbat, even water into wine

—–

He glides through Geulah St.

One hand holding Mordechai, his baby,

The other dangles near his tzit-tzit

Grasping Torah, remembering G.d

They cross the street swaying to

The sound of the nigun in the wind

—-

They stroll eyes fixed on the heavens,

An inward gaze of peace,

A stranger to envy, malice, or vanity.

His ego held firm by his shtreimel

Only his peyot wobble to his walk.

One G..d, one woman, one book

Love, duty and awe.

—-

Days spent in recitation, nights

In veneration. His laws he lives.

No Hollywood movies, no french wine,

No facebook, no pettiness here

Knowing the all desirable,

His soul cleaves, his heart swells,

Yet his head is level.

—-

His eyes still like the waters lake

Blessed with grace and divine beauty

Radiating the docility of wisdom

This dove, is perhaps the last

Vestige of divinity on earth or

Perhaps the only remaining angel?

A tale of two cities

12 Feb

Walk the city streets
Of this chaotic and bustling city
See the dust dance, dangle
And fall on a shoemakers glue,
On a welders glasses, a tourists felafel,
And on the lazy mans Bentley that
Lines Zamalek’s street.

See the sign of Allah’s finger print on
The passing mans forehead – bruised
From all the prayers. “Allah hu Akbar!”
Peer upon the wrinkled forehead of the one
Dressed in suit and pink tie,
Weary from broker calls. “Lets leave it a while Allen.”
And then that other one whose head
Bursts from a night out spent on
Marcel’s Black Label.
Black market scotch, or a black market life?
“Whose market is this anyway?”

Markets for donated clothing?
EU bribes the pockets of the rich
Government official, as the rags
Parade themselves from Tahrir to the 6th of October St.
Lacoste to Missoni, Billa to Carefour.
Sold to the hard earned baksheesh
Workers wife.

Walk on 26 July street have
A chai for 2 pounds or for 20.
Go to Beano’s where even locals
Order in English.
Stroll by the river where the
Colonial style boats
Wade along the Nile shore.

Here those who can afford
Sit in the Imperial Lounge
And down beer costing a
Mans weekly wage. They
Watch the poor man pass
In his motor boat full
Of lights and lively music,
As the sound of one word
“Kitsh” spirals through the smoke
Numb to comprehend the
Determined efforts  to
End his day in enjoyment.

A parallel city, a divided city,
Colonial legacy beats down still.
Escape to the domino and shisha.
Dulled from the dust?
Or from the fear of the feat?
Overthrow the pharaoh once and for all!
Isn’t it time for another Nasser?

Al-Qahira

12 Feb

 

 

CAIRO – SOME IDEAS OR THOUGHTS THAT HAVE MADE AN IMPRESSION.  BELOW ARE PEOPLE WHO ONCE STEPPED FOOT IN CAIRO. ENJOY!

IBN BATTUTA 1304-1369, A BERBER FROM TANGIER, MOROCCO, WHO TRAVELED THE WORLD AND LATER WROTE ABOUT IT IN HIS BOOK RIHLA. HERE IS WHAT HE HAD TO SAY ABOUT CAIRO:

I arrived … at the city of Cairo, mother of cities … mistress of broad provinces and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendor, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the stopping-place of feeble and strong. … She [Cairo] surges as the waves of the sea with her throngs of folk and can scarce contain them...”

AND THEN THERE IS THE REMARKABLE PHILOSOPHER, RABBI, AND SCHOLAR MAIMONIDES  (1135-1204), WHO LIVED IN CAIRO AND SERVED AS THE PHYSICIAN TO THE SULTAN. HERE IS AN EXCERPT FROM HIS TIME IN CAIRO:

I dwell at Fostat, and the sultan resides at Cairo [about a mile ­and­ a­ half away]…. My duties to the sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning, and when he or any of his children or any of the inmates of his harem are indisposed, I dare not quit Cairo, but must stay during the greater part of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one of the two royal officers fall sick, and I must attend to their healing. Hence, as a rule, I leave for Cairo very early in the day, and even if nothing unusual happens, I do not return to Fostat until the afternoon. Then I am almost dying with hunger. . . I find the antechamber filled with people, both Jews and gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes-a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.

Maimonides astounds, not only for this deep thought,but that he wrote so many  of his commentaries and essays while on the run, fleeing from persecution.   Many quote him and yet don’t know him. His is the famous “give a man a fish and you feed him a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Here are his progressive thoughts on giving:

“Anticipate charity by preventing poverty; assist the reduced fellow man, either by a considerable gift or a sum of money or by teaching him a trade or by putting him in the way of business so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his had for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity’s golden ladder.”

THEN WE HAVE RABBI IBN BEN EZRA, THE GREAT POET, MATHMETICIAN, GRAMMARIAN AND WRITER 1089-1164, WHO LIVED IN CAIRO AROUND 1109. HE LIVED, TAUGHT, AND WROTE ALSO WHILE LIVING IN EXILE AND WANDERING THE WORLD. HERE IS HIS POEM:

I HAVE A GARMENT

I have a garment which is like a sieve

Through which girls sift barley and wheat.

In the dead of night I spread it out like a tent

And a thousand stars pierce it with their gleams.

Sitting inside, I see the moon and the Pleiades

And on a good night, the great Orion himself.

I get awfully tired of counting all the holes

Which seem to me like the teeth of many saws.

A piece of thread to sew up all the other threads

Would be, to say the least, superfluous.

If a fly landed on it with all his weight,

The little idiot would hang by his foot, cursing.

Dear God, do what you can to mend it.

Make me a mantle of praise from these poor rags

Translated by Robert Mezey

Bird’s eye view

9 Feb

SANAANIAN TRACES

Step through the red and green

Stained glassed arched windows

To the sand brushed mud brick blocks

See the white spiral designs dance on its exterior

like an Arab brides painted henna hands.

Hover over the 5thor 6th floor in vertigo

of mans first sky scraper.

——

Through this height, peer down

upon the labyrinth winding narrow streets below

To see women dressed as black crows

Abayas and hijab glide to and fro

Then the extinct Sanaanian red appears

like a lost Cardinal she comes and goes

Black is the color of chastity?

Or the color of the Gulf?

—–

Here man buys a woman for a night or a life time

Give him just your body and damn your life

Better sell your soul to the highest bidder

The 3 S rule applies, keep it: superficial, sweet and sexual.

“Woman’s lib is between her legs and not her ears.” they say

And a female pimp is a “best friend.”

—–

On Thursdays men congregate in their rooms

reserved for the khat, the view and the chew.

The wealthy speak of Al-Qaeda

as their shaking hands reach for the bottle of Shamlan

Discussing the dwindling foreign investment

they ask “is Yemen a failed state?”

Some answer “Is it even a country?” Lost in a dull daze,

the chaos of war, has imposed its absurdity.

Hopeless they chew on their impotency.

—–

Expats enter and conversations in

German, French, and English.

This is expat wasteland: From Australia to the Philippines,

from Spain to Somalia.

From an NGO to the UN, a diplomat or a thief?

Secret agents all indeed.

Helping all but only themselves.

Here an elite back home an unknown

Solipsistic pawns of a governments game,

Another Jack Daniels to soothe the soul

Until their next appointment

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