Still Life with Oud Player
Photo Credit: Angie Brenner
Midnight at Al Fishawy Cafe
and a oud player is hunched
over a song. He looks sad
and sleepy, and just when
you think he is about to fade
out on the wooden hump
he wakes up with a strum.
Everything is for sale here:
books, leather cushion covers,
precious pride. A woman
with a bedouin headdress
drops a handful of hot
peanuts on our brass table.
Oh moon, she says, they are still
hot. I say, no thank you. Doesn’t
the one beside you want to eat,
let her eat. No thank you.
What about this one, with the eyes,
doesn’t he want to eat?
And everybody is here. Everybody
that was somebody: Mahfouz
with his Turkish coffee cup; Fareed
El Atrash with an entourage
of Lebanese women flanking him;
King Farouk, casual in dark glasses.
Every one of them framed and labeled.
The peanuts cool in front of me,
the moon is frigid beside me,
and everything is for sale. A chandelier
hovers behind us, seeming to float
by itself, until we hear the child
behind it say, chandeliers for 50 pounds.
The woman collects uneaten
peanuts now, and coins from
the ones who ate. Isn’t this a pity
she says, collecting my untouched
pile, you let them grow cold.
Zein El-Amine was born and raised in Lebanon. He has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Maryland where he teaches Global Literature and Social Change. He also leads annual literary journeys to Ireland and Egypt for the university. His poems have been published by Folio, Foreign Policy in Focus, Beltway Quarterly, DC Poets Against the War Anthology, Penumbra, GYST, and Joybringer. He has won the Tallahassee Writers’ Association Annual Poetry and Haiku Contest. His short stories have appeared in Boundoff and Uno Mas magazines.
FACEBOOK: Zein El-Amine