The Zeinhom Morgue: A Poem

Cairo to Luxor.
Islam’s biggest feasting hour.
Going home for Eid al-Adha —
the ritual where God gave Abraham
a ram to save his son from sacrifice.
The train was overbooked, they say:
"chaotic, crowded, comfortless."
People slept in luggage racks.
No heat, no room, no dining car —
no windows, just the whipping wind
to spread the red-tongued flame.
Pushing, pushing metal walls
that wouldn’t move.

Three cars of mute accordions
with soot for pleats.
On AOL, the color photo
only has six shades of gray.
Those who touched, who didn’t perish
speak of fingers clawing through smoke.
At the Zeinhom morgue,
a young man searches for his kin.
Reports the bodies charred
beyond an eye’s appraisal:
headless, limbless general ash.

There were no lists of passengers,
pharaohs trapped in consequence.
The irony of livestock
wandering the carriage box
just to enter into death.
My pen remembers other flames,
thinks of time as fuchsia buds,
tremulous, frail, quick to fry.
It seems this year the Fates are
pouring grief our way
like milk on morning cereal.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal,
propitious Saudi billionaire, donates
cash to widows, orphans of the fire.
A pittance for the loss of love.
Coins rattle for the grab
inside the terra cotta skull.

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