Mokattam Hill


Mokattam Hill

by Kim Tamalonis



On tiny toes, urchins played tag,

And danced on dunes of decay.

Surrounded by great pungent stench,

Imaginations whisked them away.

The Cairo heat, merciless and fierce,

Scorched small children’s backs,

But locked in caste by massive mountains,

On trash they ran in packs.

Lost in time, the young ones aged,

As days turned into years,

Yet through thick smog, their bodies flew,

Far from well-schooled peers.


Buried beneath compost and grime,

Potters’ caves were hollowed.

From deep within, kiln ash burst forth,

Charred souls the system swallowed.

Burning trash, free fuel of choice,

Taxed with dreadful force.

Toxins turned fresh air to black,

Killing without remorse.

Burning, sweating and steering men slaved,

Forgetting to breathe, forgetting to bathe.

On and on they worked their wheels,

Frenzied and driven, unable to yield.

From stench and sweat, great pots were spun,

Then stacked and baked by beating sun.

Donkey carts took place on cue,

As dawn announced each day,

Carts moved goods to market place,

The ancient Cairo way.

Merchants thrived, while potters slaved,

Birth fates rarely swayed,

Young fleeting feet, soon disappeared,

No choice in contract made.

Children followed family course,

If clay could only tell,

The names of all who spun in pits,

Confined in life to Hell.

In the landscape of labor, there is no lag,

And on tiny toes, zabbaleen play tag.





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