The women in their black gallibeas
wait for commuter trains in Cairo.
They seem to know exactly where to stand
apart from the men in white robes,
so they will board the Women’s Car when
a train screeches into the station.
Their golden brown faces
damp from June’s intense heat
recall tomb paintings’ deep color
preserved from kingdoms long past.
I cannot see their heads, the shape
of their bodies swathed in cloth layers,
these anonymous ones
unlike females I have met in other places.
They giggle to each other
like shy girls but they are wives,
mothers, clinging babies on their hips,
carrying baskets of pita and pomegranates,
looking a-la-tuul, straight ahead,
for the next train to come.
In my white linen dress,
blonde hair blowing in the wind,
I have never felt so conspicuous,
the invisible woman they will never know.
This poem first appeared in Kansas City Voices (Vol. 9. 2011).
Used here with the author’s permission.