Alexandrian

My friend Michael Wolfe is a Muslim poet, filmmaker, and essayist. He wrote this amazing poem and sent it to me on March 20th, just one day after Egyptian voters capped this spring's democratic revolution in Egypt by approving a new Egyptian constitution by an overwhelming 78%. Michael gave me permission to publish the poem here. For all the uncertainty attached to the future of Egypt and the Middle East, I am inspired and heartened by the new day of which Michael writes.  

 

clearpixelAlexandrian

by Michael Wolfe

      For the gods perceive future things,
           ordinary people things in the present,
but the wise perceive things about to happen.

               --Philostratos, ‚ÄúLife of Apollonius of Tyana,‚Äù viii, 7.

Where the Nile runs down
To a shifting sea,
The man in the street
Knows what’s happening now,

But the future eludes him. 
All night he chases love
Or dreams of progress
Yet by morning comes to grief.

God only knows
What tomorrow may bring,
Because no one here
Is more than half enlightened—

Which may be why
In the poorer quarters
One still hears His name.
Up in the poets’ part of town,

The watchful ones do 
Sometimes glimpse what
Lies around the corner.
They don’t see far with the naked eye,

But they see further. Tonight,
After hours of concentration,
Their ears begin to ring
With the distant tread of time 

Approaching.   At first
 it is light,  like the whisper 
Of fresh two-by-fours
Falling through a forest into earshot.

Elated by this partial apprehension,
They rise from bed
And step to the sill
And gaze into the street,

Down into the city of Cavafy—
Where crowds are advancing
Happy or grieving,
Marching through sunlight

Falling in thick beams,
Feet moved by rumors
Of the new day
Finally dawning.