Cairo poems: Mobile Mosque

The metro in Ramadan is a mobile mosque.
The dry lips recite verses
from plastic-covered Qurans.
They say prayers,
like the prayers of the Ancients,
“easy on the tongue, vital for the scale.” 
Their eyes are kept ajar, as if to shield
the mystery from too much light.


In this blessed month our pleas pass,


without inspection,
through the wide open gates of heaven,
and the angels fly, on high alert,
grandmother would say, then turn
to me and ask why I didn’t fast.


With some logic, a surge of hormones,


and much fright,
I had dislodged God
from the cavity of my budding soul.


I stand today in the corner, by the backdoor,


a secular man, wary of metaphysicians.
I am puzzled by how certain the worshippers are
that their deeds deserve hell and heaven, 
how perfect they think they could become.


Who will stop the vengeful ghosts


of my transgressions
from stalking me in my sleep?
Neither love, travel, nor art,
neither books nor consuming cause
could fill the great hole
He left behind. God is bulk;
I could make up only retail:


The young men’s gelled hair glistens,


like cotton fields in summertime.
A blind man hawks electric plugs in the aisle.
A woman, spurring a little girl in front of her,
begs with a singer’s perfect pitch. 
Another firmly holds a basket 
of dates and nuts and tangerines —
as if holding a perishable eternity.


The train hurtles through the tunnel.


The angels tap on the roof.
A chthonic preacher declares from a tape:
The journey of the pious is long.

This is the first of three poems by Sharif S. Elmusa that Mada Masr will publish this Ramadan.

Sharif S Elmusa 

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