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Cairo Jag Analysis

Author: poem of Keith Douglas Type: poem Views: 14

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Shall I get drunk or cut myself a piece of cake,

a pasty Syrian with a few words of English

or the Turk who says she is a princess--she dances

apparently by levitation?  Or Marcelle, Parisienne

always preoccupied with her dull dead lover:

she has all the photographs and his letters

tied in a bundle and stamped Decede in mauve ink.

All this takes place in a stink of jasmin.

But there are the streets dedicated to sleep

stenches and the sour smells, the sour cries

do not disturb their application to slumber

all day, scattered on the pavement like rags

afflicted with fatalism and hashish.  The women

offering their children brown-paper breasts

dry and twisted, elongated like the skull,

Holbein's signature.  But his stained white town

is something in accordance with mundane conventions-

Marcelle drops her Gallic airs and tragedy

suddenly shrieks in Arabic about the fare

with the cabman, links herself so

with the somnambulists and legless beggars:

it is all one, all as you have heard.

But by a day's travelling you reach a new world

the vegetation is of iron

dead tanks, gun barrels split like celery

the metal brambles have no flowers or berries

and there are all sorts of manure, you can imagine

the dead themselves, their boots, clothes and possessions

clinging to the ground, a man with no head

has a packet of chocolate and a souvenir of Tripoli.


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