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Our Daily Bread
after René Magritte
between a head-nod and a head-butt
between greeting and bolting
between the clothes of courtesy and of the guillotine
the difference is barely visible
but “barely” you say:
barely if the hawk doubles back
in the postpartum labyrinth
a woman is born to trouble, and is barely born at all
old-fashioned and harsh
dry during the tempest
humid on good days
calm like a spell book inside the castle of speech
she says things have “just barely” begun
that the vapor is as light as a bed
that the useful man wastes both the part
and the whole
she says she does not need to be heard
because she is not of these clouds
that we mistake for prophets
• • •
It Was Another Time
We were sitting under a clock as cloudless
as a spring spraying hours.
The nearest little girl spoke in Sanskrit
and someone asked about a path that didn’t exist.
Behind us a village
with eyes fat from leisure.
We crumpled from touch
long withheld in the windows of rain
and rust took the tips of our fingers.
Being late and idle children
whose faces help no one
we let the grass grow around us
like a guilty need
and dreamed of disappearing at last
hidden under the long eyelashes of a wish
that escapes all presence and all place.
It was a day like a baroque chapel
inlaid with forgetting
it was a sun without the strength
to rise and see us grow pale.
“Le pain quotidien” and “C’était une autre époque” appeared in Œuvres : poèmes, récits, essais, articles et pamphlets by Georges Henein © 2006 Éditions Denoël.
Georges Henein (1914-1973) was an Egyptian poet and journalist. The son of a Coptic diplomat, Henein was educated in Europe and developed close ties to André Breton and the French Surrealists. In the 1930s he founded the Cairo Surrealist group, Art et Liberté, and helped to build a community of engaged artists including Edmond Jabès, Joyce Mansour, Albert Cossery, and Ramses Younane. Having fallen out of favor with President Nasser due to his staunch anti-fascist principles, Henein left Egypt in 1962 and settled in France, where he worked as a journalist for L’Express and Jeune Afrique, continuing to write poems that went mostly unpublished until after his death.
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