Egyptian Woman Disguised Herself as a Man for 43 years
—New York Times
If you had asked me, I would have told you
why I dressed in these pants and tunic,
tied a green scarf around my close-cropped hair,
smoked cigarettes, spoke rough and low—
why I harvested crops,
hauled cement, lifted bricks,
cleaned the dust and dirt off a thousand shoes
with nothing more to think about but how the day would end.
My daughter survived and I
was never beaten again.
Now, walking through the maze of back alleys,
I set my back against the wind. I’m a ghost mother—
memories float me through time
to our small house, the one with two good chairs
and an old radio humming on the kitchen shelf,
to my little girl playing on the bare floor. I am
a pearl shadow,
standing at the stove, smiling
at pigeons simmering in the pot who seem to smile back.
I fill their stomachs with rice and herbs,
and now they bob up and down
on a roiling sea of cinnamon and cloves.