Sunday Poem

Birds in the Garden of the Cairo Marriott

And you, little birds, are waiters but not smiling,
hopping at the sad indignity of that man
(he said Detriot was home) on his second
giant burger; with your quick in-and-out
besieging tables sweetened by the sugared sky
of Cairo, you mock the nicest men with napkins
on their shoulders — would they snap at scraps? —
and your big rivals, we’d call them crows
but they are dignity itself in brown tuxedos,
peering from high perches of a Disney Ramasseum,
speaking faultless American forever,
they must be Prefects of the Underworld!

The little dust we drop our crumbs upon
seethes like the Red Sea Crossing — if this is history
asks a powerless nation, can mere birds
patrol the valley of the Kings each morning?
Three sparrows who have ĥotep somewhere
in their suffix drop beside our just uncovered
breakfast tomb: all food, they say,
is like another wave upon the Nile, a dream
worth sleeping for — the gods immured in obelisks
consider everything; their High Priests clad in aprons
are opening umbrellas as the sun begins
to climb above the masts of potted palms.

by Peter Porter
from Poetry Review, 98:2
Publisher: Poetry Review, London, 2008