Alexandria, 1953

You could think of sunlight

Glancing off the minarets,

You could think of guavas and figs

And the whole marketplace filled

With the sumptuous din of haggling,

But you could not think of Alexandria

Without the sea, or the sea,

Turquoise and shimmering, without

The white city rising before it.



Even on the back streets

You could feel it on your skin,

You could smell it in the aroma

Of dark coffee, spiced meat.



You looked at the sea and you heard

The wail of an Arab woman singing or praying.



If, as I can now, you could point

To the North Atlantic, swollen

And dark as it often is, you might say,

“Here lies Wrath,” or “Truly God is great.”
You could season a Puritan soul by it.



But you could fall into the Mediterranean

As though you were falling into a blue dream,

Gauzy, half unreal for its loveliness.

It was deceptively calm and luxurious.

At Stanley Bay, you could float

On your back and watch the evening sun

Color the city a faint rose.

You could drown, it was said,

Almost without knowing it.