At the mouth of the Nile
a Byzantine dome of many colours
defies its modernist renovations.
A sky the colour of a carnal life
kept moist with preservatives,
now too complete, fresh and
a little sour like half dry new acrylic,
authentic as the esplanade breeze.
the smell of Alexandria! Index
of cultural success,
rot, seaweed in withered bays.
that’s why we come here – to write:
the tired eyes of bachelors
track their favourite youths.
Fathers look for sons,
whom all the gold of Egypt won’t beautify.
Gracious elderly waiters with colonial manners
affect a stance so long held
they wait as long as you do,
wait with you, for your choice
defines the gesture and makes the day.
Watching thunderstorms assemble
for battle out to sea,
from the balcony, a golden light
bathes the shabby roofs.
Is it dangerous? If I open all the doors,
test the hinges on shutters? I want to see
the way lightning travels
down telephone wires, through TVs.
Would my nose glow if hit, would my head
(suddenly blessed) wear a turban of plasma?
No appliances in this room, most basic
but... it’s Egyptian enough, or is it
Greek – like you and me
they never could make up their mind,
trapped between Kora standing to attention
and fantastic winged Gods.
Which is why, when I stare
at plaster cherubs in a sagging ceiling
I recall the museum, those rows of heavy-lidded
half bald consuls, the candy spiral of Venetian glass.
Or your childhood memory – Fremantle 1956.
Airy epilogue, dusty essentials
at the end of the line
where the sea and the light
are now compressed
to layers of Pernod green,
and the epic goes to salt on the wind.