Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Cairo Divorce Twice Told

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Cairo Divorce Twice Told

Article excerpt

(1952 Nasser's purge of foreigners, 2011 Arab Spring) after Lucette Lagnado, daughter/author of Man in the Sharkskin Suit

Dreaming of manicured boulevards as yet unbarricaded,

lined with mansions still pristine in their neoclassicism,

I float above courtyards lush with trees of rose-gold apricots.

In senescent sun, I ascend effortlessly to the terrace

of Shepheard's Hotel. My father, shiny in his white sharkskin

suit, is busy dealmaking, post-World War II, but not too busy

to ask if he may dance with my mother. They waltz

under Orion's winking belt at LAuberge des Pyramids,

King Farouk's ballroom. At our apartment I hear my mother

discuss French classics she once studied at Bibliotheque Cattaoui

before marriage and children curtailed her curiosity.

Her mother prepares the Shabbat meal. Hidden

behind the window's silk drape I watch the sinuous streets

of Tahrir Square swell with men clutching velvet pouches,

discreet holders for prayer shawls and skullcaps,

as they walk to Gates of Heaven, the corniced temple where

my parents wed, and I spy the bronzed-umber boy I adore.

At dinner the family chews cinnamon-spiced lamb

and braided challah glazed with the sweetness of apricots

cooked into syrupy marmalade and sealed in tins

soon to conceal jewels and gold coins carried to Brooklyn

where I wake struggling for breath in an airless room

and mourn the dissipating aroma of apricots, a winey incense;

the feel of their downy nap, conjoined hemispheres

cupped in my hand; and their flavor, honeyed musk

of nascent love; so seductive to my senses as to entice

a return sixty springs later to the Square where I search

for baskets of ripened apricots carried by young women,

their cursive lips coated with commingled words

of Christian, Muslim intellects. …

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