Beneath the cotton-candy pink in the plume
of a tire fire, one man’s beard is peeling off.
One looks like a clown, leans on a stick.
Shadow of another the color of fruit rot.
A parade is coming—no it’s a crowd
flushed back across the bridge. Pregnant
woman, old man, limping child, a tall one whose
skin’s too tight; the bones poke through, obscene.
Is there a hospital that will protect their names?
What is the half-dressed woman doing
by the rail – jumping? wretching?
One’s nose is gone. Another’s lost his whole face.
Where is the body that arm belongs to?
Does someone have water?
Does someone have gauze?
The sky black tatters, the moon an acrid smudge,
smoke clots in red siren lights.
A vinegar rag for the gas?
A child holds a miniature horse by a flimsy rope.
It’s one of the four. Her horsemen were shot.
There’s a clearing over there, but it’s above
the river. You’d have to drown to get there.
after the painting by Myrtle Von Damitz III
December in Cairo at the Start of the Counterrevolution
If we'd gone to Alexandria
to breathe the salt air, to be
with our friends again, as we planned,
we would have checked into that same
hotel. And soon after we'd have smelled
the burning cars just yards away,
perhaps seen the bearded men
as they stormed the crowd
with machetes. If, as is likely,
I'd have hidden with the kids
and watched from that third floor
window of the room we would
have requested as it faces
the side alley and not the glorious
Mediterranean but also the corniche
and its endless car horns, we'd
have looked straight down
on those knives, the charge
and retreat, the inexplicable ladder-
wielding. I'd have had to try
to come up with an explanation
as to why we were not leaving
the hotel, as to why the shouting,
the smoke, the breaking glass.
And if I had tried to distract
with some English-language channel
that might have been on television
if there is a television in that room,
I'd have had to try to explain
what was being said
about that kindergarten class
in Connecticut, why the people
cried. Instead, we stayed home, took
a drive around to see the tanks
amassing near the poll stations,
found some lights to wrap
around the potted fir we found.
Top feature image "Night Walk" featured with the permission of the artist Myrtle von Damitz III. See more here: https://vondamitz.wordpress.com/prints/
Andy Young is a poet and essayist and teacher at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Her poetry collection All Night It Is Morning was published in 2014 by Diálogos Press. She is a free-lance writer for Heinemann Publishing and received her MFA from Warren Wilson College. She has taught at Tulane University and at the American University in Cairo. Her work has appeared in places such as Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, New World Writing, and One, as well as in Arabic and Spanish translation, electronic and flamenco music, and as an element in visual art.