The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Mary Crow

The Necessary Existence of the Old World

                                                --Cairo, 2011

 

These simmering Cairo streets
return me to a distant childhood:
midwest July shimmering as I learned
to ride a little mare who seemed large
to me—kicking and squealing—as I walk,
careful not to tread on broken glass,
in these streets death stalks—

In front of you, the teacher prophesied,
a road of sorrow, but I’ve learned
to rein my gaze from memories
of apple blossoms dropping
like summer snowflakes
or Egyptian ashes.

He promised to teach me intimacy
with mountains, the good in everything.
What I learned could teach me
to discover fire’s light through smoke,
to tell flames from warning flares—
I now see I couldn’t see.

Not the others, not the clash
of protesting crowds, not myself,
not even a dappled mare I learned
to turn with the precision of a watch
beyond Giza Pyramids
where dark reigns supreme.

Not lightning bug flicker
or voices calling through the dusk,
Come home free,
that could not foretell
what any future might learn
from history.

Nor how I would hide on sidelines
fracturing to release ochre tanks
on Tahrir Square, where someone
braved the rubble, scrambling up
to wave a flag in victory
he couldn’t know
would be short-lived.

 

 

Mary Crow

Taking the Heat

 

                        Where alien eucalyptus
            pressed palms and water-ferns
into a bright horizon’s glare,

                    timelessness filled the air
        as I stepped into silence and immensity,
onto a bank of the river.

                                How briefly it all seemed clean!
                    No animal entrails as ornament
or steaks hacked from a living bull,

                    no slaves in bamboo cages.
         Not yet the daze of apathy and disgust,
no flesh-eating worms.

                       But were they past?—just inscriptions
            to read, hieroglyphics by an unknown hand,
rhythmic drumming and the whine of heavy-hearted,

                       five-stringed tamboura to hear.
           I smelled jibena scenting the dawn air. Nearby,
an immense cracked pillar fallen two thousand years ago.

                       Here at an ancient village’s ruins,
           time juts into the sea beyond disputed borders,
nomads’ fierce territory, where it roams emptiness

                        sighing for us.

 

 

 

MARY CROW's poems have been published in literary magazines including American Poetry Review, Hotel Amerika, A Public Space, Interim, Poet Lore, Denver Quarterly, Illuminations, Cimarron Review, Indianola Review, Wisconsin Review, and Tulane Review. She has published three chapbooks of poetry and three full-length books plus five volumes of poetry translation. Her awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Colorado Council on the Arts as well as three Fulbrights. For 14 years Mary served as Poet Laureate of Colorado. She is retired from the faculty of Colorado State University's creative writing faculty. 

 

 

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