Egypt… Awakening, 2011

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

— William Butler Yeats

I was pushed without my permission
into a tangle of birthdays.
listen, eavesdroppers, there is no such thing
as a bed without affliction…

— Lucille Clifton

Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

— Alexander Pope

Five thousand years pointing at the sun;
Five thousand years at moon and stars;
Rising out of sand, each building block
A Mac Truck of solidity, sheer weight
Defying reason, begging the question,

Five thousand years of pharaohs and invaders—
Semites…, Hyksos…, Hittites…, Nubians…,
Romans…, Turks…, Frenchmen…, Anglos…, Yanks…
And the Nile flooding, the Nile receding,
And all along its banks:
Life and commerce; birth, love, suffering, death.

Akhnaton sleeps with the first dream of God;
Boyish Tut and long-lived Ramses; Cheops
And asp-kissed Cleopatra. … Bored French troops
Take pot-shots at the Sphinx; Nelson slaps
The Little Emperor’s fleet; the world winds on;
Gamal Abdel Nasser sleeps—all entombed
In the embracing sands of the enchanting dream.

And then, in an instant, the sun dial of the pyramids
Moves a degree, shudders between
Shadowy and luminous… and the awakened behold
In the mirrors of compatriot eyes
Themselves!—singing, dancing in streets and bazaars,
With the old world scratching, gawking, How?

And…, Why now? What next?
But it is as though
Those apexes of stone, those points of light
Have punched like awls through leathery Time
To the enveloping atmosphere
Of what has been,
Notched the belt of our perceptions,
Knocking from our human solar plexus
The breath of wonder… seeing emerging
From beneath the Sphinx’s haunches
A blood-swaddled babe, wailing

Poet-playwright-journalist-fictionist-editor-professor, Dr. Gary Corseri has published work in Dissident Voice, The New York Times, Village Voice, CommonDreams and hundreds of other publications and websites worldwide. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. Gary can be reached at Read other articles by Gary.

5 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Don Hawkins said on February 19th, 2011 at 2:09pm #

    Gary I’ll bet if the people we see in all there shapes and sizes on TV if they read what you just wrote for maybe a second might understand a little of it then say time for a commercial message. I understand what you wrote and I remember have for along time now help’s sometimes. I have to admit the little change over from unreality to reality will not be boring and some will have gold wishing for maybe just a nice cup of coffee.

  2. kalidasa said on February 20th, 2011 at 6:12pm #

    How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
    The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
    Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
    Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

    — Alexander Pope

  3. mary said on February 21st, 2011 at 9:55am #

    I appreciate this work from Gary Corseri which conjured up some memories of my own visit to the Pyramids and the Sphinx about twenty years ago, They were more mysterious, and also larger, in my imagination than their actual physical reality. On the journey through the smog from the city to the outlying desert on its outskirts, I was struck by the terrible squalor the people were living in and by the dozens and dozens of begging (and smiling) children.

    Gary’s litany of Eqypt’s invaders and occupiers made me think about what has happened in the region in the two decades since that visit. In the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been a endless horror story of war, occupation and cruel oppression.

    Tahrir Square, Pearl Square and Green Square now. Who knows where revolt follows? Times Square? Trafalgar Square? Let’s believe that the ‘Possibilities’ become Realities.

    PS Some irony in Cameron’s photo op in Tahrir Square today, recently the scene of the deployment of British made tear gas canisters against peaceful protesters.

    PPS I liked the Yeats and Pope quotations.

  4. mary said on February 21st, 2011 at 10:06am #

    John Hilley on medialens has similar thoughts on Cameron’s visit to Egypt. I have been out all day and see that there is much else on medialens about the general UK gross hypocrisy.

    Cameron in Egypt – to BBC

    Dear Steve Herrmann and Helen Boaden,

    The proclaimed watchword of the BBC is ‘balance’, as in providing within articles and reports an alternative view or interpretation, notably, that which gives a contrary voice to what government and other officials say and claim to represent.

    Please could you look at the BBC piece, ‘David Cameron hails “opportunity” on Egypt visit’, and tell me where the balancing opinion is.

    James Landale is not only travelling with David Cameron, he’s amplifying his every word and claim as if they were obvious truths.

    He and you, I’m sure, must be aware that, while Cameron is calling for an end to Egypt’s 30 year emergency laws, the British state, including his government, have faithfully supported Mubarak and his regime over that same period, a policy which has seen a continuous flow of US/UK arms supplies and a blind-eye to his torture/rendition agenda.

    Where in any of the BBC’s output do we see the merest hint of British complicity in Egypt’s repression?

    Isn’t there room for even a token challenge over Cameron’s ‘first Western leader’ appearance and the suggestion of British hypocrisy?

    I’m passing this on to the BBC Trust as a clear breach of the BBC’s own notional guidelines.

    In the meantime, perhaps you could reference someone like historian and author Mark Curtis who, I’m sure, would provide a rather different take on Cameron’s visit and the nature of British ‘concerns’ in Egypt.

    Just in the interests of balance.


    John Hilley


    PS Boaden is Head of News and Hermann is Editor of the BBC News website

  5. kalidasa said on February 21st, 2011 at 6:59pm #

    Yes Mary, why is the magnificence of the ancient world always undermined, distorted and degraded by omission?
    The people even denied the full truth of their history’s splendor.

    “Our image of the past is largely made up of Hollywood inventions, propaganda and uneducated guesses.”

    The pyramids in their day were so absolutely stupendously bordering on supernaturally wonderful it’s impossible to overstate their awesomeness.

    Same with the Parthenon and practically every temple and statue ever created all those hundreds of centuries ago.

    They resembled the relatively new temple complex at Meenakshi in their dazzling color and artwork.
    But we’re conditioned, tricked even, into seeing them as bland faded white and gray.
    “In ancient times the Great Pyramid was encased in a massive snow-white limestone polished to a glistening smooth veneer. Strabo, a Greek geographer who lived during the time of Christ, remarked, “It seemed like a building let down from heaven without the aid of human hands.”

    “The casing stones of the Great Pyramid number 144,000 and were so brilliant that they could be seen hundreds of miles away, even at night. Sunlight reflected from it would have been visible from the moon.”

    “The capstone was then plated in gold or electrum.”

    Google: 6 Things From History Everyone Pictures Incorrectly

    Google: Madurai Meenakshi Temple, Tamilnadu Photo Gallery by Priya

    (I’m sticking with human devolution, not evolution)