Saturday, April 14, 2007

Made in Canada

I am told that I am from a land where
pigeons are liable to be eaten
and language flies in curves, snapped out like sandstorms
whipped onto urbanized streets.
Men and camels spit here and taxi drivers
care little for the lives of pedestrians.

They tell me the sidewalks are painted in
black and white squares, and children are kept on leashes.
Women here are colourful, dazzling,
buttoning blouses tightly over their chests
and showing just enough coiffered hair
through transparent scarves.

Coffee shops and sheesha, the culture
of a defeatist nation, men leer at women
like pigeons to be eaten with cheese,
white salty cheese in fresh pita
from ahmed in the shop beneath the complex
who screams at little boys sent by their mothers
without faded pounds in hand.

Internet cafes and men
with mustaches and tattered slippers
humming faint tunes to the music on beaten up radios,
their shirts sinking in the sun and sweat.

Shops are still open at 2am and
lights send blinding glares into their eyes,
mobs of people on the meditteranean,
shaking hands, laughing time into the frothing waves,
corn crackles in the vendor's fire as he chants
in his rusty voice, two for three pounds.
Loofas sold on the street by a boy,
no older than ten and
fool shops, fanta and co-co-cola, roaming cats
forage for their evening meal.

Back in Canada, made in Canada.
I sit lulled by the buzz of my computer
feeling profoundly, alone.


Arif said...

I read this article in Walrus magazine once that mentioned Egyptian men and their overly physical displays of affection between heterosexual males.

It was filled with hilarious tidbits/quotes.

Elizabeth said...

Wow, Asmaa. That's a beautiful poem. Having been to Egypt, I can say yes, it's a human soup, life is lived fully right there before your eyes, things aren't hidden. And Arif, I thought one of the cool things was that men were allowed to be affectionate with one another without their manhood being questioned. Sometimes it can seem awfully lonely because we are expected not to show our feelings so much.

Arif said...

Elizabeth: Yes, a little bit of affection can be nice. The author likened it to the type of behaviour heterosexual women can get away with here in NA without being labelled gay. It works with men there.

But I still think it's more natural to see women giggling and pinching each other's bottoms than manly men doing that. Though with Egyptians and their XXL-sized bottoms, I can understand how things started.

Asmaa said...

Elizabeth, thanks =) at first, the affectionate men thing was rather weird to me, but I got used to it. And you're right, everyone there seems open. It's the opposite here, we're all so fake.

Arif, I didn't exactly enjoy your comments.

hajera said...

That was an awesome poem, Asmaa. Sounds freakishly similar to India actually, affectionate men in tight jeans and all. Except for the sheesha, of course.

hajera said...

That was an awesome poem, Asmaa. Sounds freakishly similar to India actually, affectionate men in tight jeans and all. Except for the sheesha, of course.

sara said...

Love this. It reminds me of what we were talking about previously ... involving my project and all.

maaz said...

wow. that was good. i love those type of poems that force your imagination to work!!

M&M said...

nicee poem(Y)

although I am confused at one part.

"Back in Canada, made in Canada.
I sit lulled by the buzz of my computer feeling profoundly, alone. " ... i am not sure what to interpret that alone for. hmm is it because you miss it? because its so differnet from your life? because you cannot relate? just wondering.

Asmaa said...

Hajera, glad that you liked the poem so much you decided to post twice ;)

Sara, definitely. It's so weird because I haven't been back for a while but it's still so clear in my mind. It's something you can't really escape, no matter how hard you try.

Maaz, thanks :) You know what's funny? I was cleaning my emails and I found an email from you, from 2 years ago. It's interesting.

M&M, I usually don't explain my poems to people, but I like you. Life in Egypt is hard. But then there's so much of everything, culture, friendliness, and just the feeling of everything being alive and noisy. Sometimes it gets to be so quiet here and you feel like there's so much you're missing.

Another point is that the speaker is caught between two realities--Canada and Egypt. But she's unable to fully identify with either part of herself. She's caught in the middle. She is alone.

Anonymous said...

Who is this guy arif and why is he making fun of Egyptian bottoms? Sorry dude, you gotta be Egyptian to poke jokes. :)

Thanks for the poem Asmaa. Fantastic :)


Nusaybah said...

Hello Asmaa
I loved that poem because It's the only one I actually understood. :)
Not only that, but it made me want to go to egypt again..I never realized that Egypt can have that much description. I usually took it as "A ghetto street filled with garbage and crying babies". Please tell me what I am saying. Thank you. :D

M&M said...

haha aww thank u Asmaa I feel special. i like u too:D. thanks for explaining. i completley get it when you explained it and actually i can relate too:P ...caught in the middle.

shajara said...

Assalamu aleikum,

man, that was a good poem. vivid and sumptuous. here I felt thrust into the colourful thick of things.
you keep amazing me. :) so continue.

Faraz said...

I can't add much more to the positive comments already; you really capture the feeling of the marketplace very well. I've passed through Cairo a couple of times, and found it remarkably similar to parts of the subcontinent with the colours and sounds of the local commerce. I also had the fortune (?) of living with Egyptians for two years, eating fool for breakfast nearly every day, and know exactly what you mean by "the culture of a defeatist nation".

Safiyyah said...

What makes it even more remarkable is that Samosa wrote it while conversing with me! That says something about what an inspiration I am. Samosa, darling, when you publish your first anthology, I get royalties, okay? :-D

Asmaa said...

Thanks everyone, for your kind words (besides Arif of course :P)

PS: Safiyyah, you wish. Maybe if you dedicate your first 2 books to me I'll consider it.