Karen Jane Cannon – Lunch by the Red Sea

Lunch by the Red Sea

Travelling north to Dahab
we were given cardboard boxes
containing small glazed bread rolls, oranges, cans of coke

to put under our seats. The armed guard sat
with a machine gun slung round his neck, shouting
Yalla! Yalla! to the driver.

No women work here—
in Sharm el Sheikh or Naama Bay. It is men
who serve meals, check us in and out, leave

flowers on pillows.
Visiting a Bedouin tribe, deep
in the desert, we drank Badawi Shai

with men and boys. We could see
the women’s tent, pitched away from ours.
We were told

they never came out— lived a life
of bright slivers of light, snatched
through slit eyelids.

Outside stood a table of brightly coloured scarves—
It was like these women left their souls
at the tent entrance, stitching

their own silence.
At Dahab there were women,
selling braided bracelets from shacks

in this old fishing town.
Lunch was laid out on a huge Persian rug, rows
of little benches under a dome of fabric.

Later as we waited in the coach
by the Red sea. A small girl pushed forward, pointed
under our seats. An older woman peered

round the door. She wants your lunchboxes.
Not a request, a command.
The driver didn’t turn his head.

She wants your boxes
We handed them over, one by one. They walked away
without looking back.

Karen Jane Cannon’s poetry has appeared in many print and online journals including Orbis, Acumen and Obsessed with Pipework. She was shortlisted for the Flambard Poetry Prize 2014. www.karen-jane-cannon.co.uk