My Egypt

Flaubert tells us he wore himself out
trying to imitate the cry of the camel,
rattle interrupted by a gargle;
he wanted to take it back with him

And Kuchak’s bedbugs fascinated him,
their smell mingled with the scent
of her skin. I want, he told her,
a touch of bitterness in things.

Temples, sand dunes, the very Nile itself
made him lazy, and he wrote home:
“I think of nothing at all,
not even the elevated thoughts

one should have here
in the presence of ruins!”
He sent his letter, then went off
to visit Kuchuk of the long legs

again, wondering what she felt
any pleasure since “undoubtedly”
her button had been circumcised
when she was a child.

I who have traveled to Egypt confess
I saw another country. In Cairo
a man followed me and I had to run;
a student in a packed bus rubbed his crotch

against me while I tried to twist away.
At night I couldn’t leave my cheap hotel.
I sat in my room reflecting on the touch
of bitterness in things.

From I Have Tasted the Apple (BOA Editions, Ltd., 1996) by Mary Crow. Copyright © 1996 by Mary Crow. Used with the permission of the publisher.