Sara Elkamel


Moses Ojo

Lake Qarun

Jan. 19, ‘22

Sara Elkamel

At the edge of the city, the dead sleep behind green doors the color of god.

The fence rises with the hills.

Drops of rain in the desert mistake themselves for sand, nick the windshield.

It is difficult to tell if the palms—brown, stout, inclined to the earth—are dying or young.

The years have salted the lake.

I came here to hide from darkness in light, its less honest sister.

Excrement lines the shore.

A crane wounded in the chest eyes the short-lived crests.

I look for green boats in the blinking water.

Four plastic chairs and a stool with frills are all one needs to make a house on the lake.

The tea smells of the small fire that brewed it.

I move the chairs out of their circle, wipe damp sand off each seat.

The hair swathing my face reminds me of the wind.

A small table—it must have been carpentered for a child—is turned over; who turned it over?

My sister’s eyes have always been sensitive to salt and water.

She sutures them shut in every ocean.

The day of her wedding, the night dissolved the lake.

The dress she chose had 36 satin buttons, each the size of a warbler’s eye.

It was my job to fasten each eye to its socket.

Her back was disappearing as mine—in the mid-May heat—was becoming a lake.

Sara Elkamel is a poet and journalist living between Cairo and NYC. She holds an MA in arts journalism from Columbia University and an MFA in poetry from New York University. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, The Yale Review, MQR, Four Way Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Adroit Journal, Poet Lore, Poetry London, Best New Poets 2020, Best of the Net 2020, among others. She is the author of the chapbook Field of No Justice (African Poetry Book Fund & Akashic Books, 2021). Find her website here.

This poem was realized with the support of Mophradat’s Writing Sabbaticals program.