Gallery — Perennial

Perennial (c) Sarah Badr 2008

Perennial, Study N°4 (detail)
90 x 100 cm high gloss print, 2008

Distant Figures

Cairo smell,
that smell that lingers
like summer of ’94

I remember
because I was on that
balcony with you,
with a gown as pale
as the pale blue sky
and the sounds of birds
rustling in trees
down below

Eight stories down,
fourteen years ago.

Where are you taking me
with the air that glides beneath
your unsturdy wing?

A man once spoke to me
of having a lover
in every city in the world

His was a number,
a collection of names
in cities spanning
continents for some
distance and comfort

And I, he said,
was Cairo.

Oh, Cairo
What do you mean to me?
Do you mean anything at all?

I try to find the rhyme,
a rhythm to my sentiment
for a land for which
I have no pitch
no notes, no key.

Only clashing colours
and turbulent sounds
bikya, bikya!
as the cars rage by
in a city awakening.

We awaken to find
hot tea and hot bread,
that sweet morning cigarette
cumin-covered, oil-drizzled
a traffic jam on the
bridge of excuses.

Are you leaving or coming?
For how long, why so long?

Concrete bodies
with spines of smoke,
it is here where the
streets are names
of the numbers of days
in the years of a history
steeped in war

And nameless alleys
carve rivers near a
bridge of excuses,
the numbers of a
desert drowned
by haphazardly
parked cars

And the rest,
just numbers
of scarred children
and broken homes
in this land of
clashing canons
and turbulent smog

No wonder.
No wonder at all.

I am on a road
named after a man
and his father
and his father’s father–
I am in a land with streets
of wars and men.

– Sarah Badr


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